Sooke RCMP auxiliary officers – and those across the country – will no longer participate in ride-alongs and firearms familiarization training will end, following a year-long review to the program.
In a memo from RCMP Deputy Commissioner Janice Armstrong, the program will see other changes affecting the 1,600 volunteers, including changes to the current auxiliary uniform, a national activity matrix outlining the duties of auxiliary constables will be created and a national training standard will be instituted.
Cpl. Janelle Shoihet, media relations officer for E Division stated in an email the program has been under review since 2014, following the shooting of an unarmed member of the Canadian Forces.
“All regular members and staff were warned to be vigilant when in public, especially those in uniform, and a directive was issued requiring that auxiliary constables working in uniform be under the direct supervision of [regular officer] equipped with all intervention tools.”
She added the focus of the directive was on the safety of their volunteers.
“There is consideration being given to changing the current auxiliary uniform as we recognize, while on duty they are identified as police officers, which puts them at risk of harm.
“Auxiliary constables will continue to perform crime prevention, community engagement and other duties.”
The Sooke RCMP detachment has three auxiliary volunteers.
“We get good service from the auxiliaries. They’re solid members, and offer real assistance to our members,” said Staff Sgt. Jeff McArthur.
“It’s (the changes) not going to be a huge hit for us, but it will be impact our operations.”
In a nationwide public online forum for auxiliary members, many reacted against the changes.
“I think most of us feel let down by the RCMP. Many of us have put in thousands (of) hours into training and on the front lines just to be punched in the gut by management,” one post read in part.
“Thinking about this … the tax base will have to go up for everyone. No more extra set of eyes for the RM’s. That means the RCMP will have to hire a ton of recruits to fill in the holes and that is gonna be expensive,” read another.
The RCMP Auxiliary Constable program was first introduced in 1963 to enhance community policing and crime prevention initiatives.
The programs are administered within 10 contract provinces and territories which does not include Ontario or Quebec.