EDMONTON – Changes are being made to the role of auxiliary constables following the deadly shootings on Parliament Hill in 2014 and at St. Albert’s Apex Casino last year.
Insp. Christopher Culhane with RCMP K Division in Alberta said while more revisions to the role are on the way, two immediate changes mean auxiliary constables will no longer be allowed on ridealongs with RCMP members. The RCMP is also ending firearms familiarization training for auxiliary constables.
“This was done to enhance their safety. We extremely value their contributions and support to the program, to the community and to Canadians,” said Culhane. “We’re looking at ensuring that we’re making every step possible to ensure that they’re volunteering with us in a safe environment.”
Auxiliary constables are volunteers who are often used as a second set of eyes alongside an RCMP member.
“They would do such things as traffic control, scene control if we were at a crime scene and had it cordoned off, they would assist with ensuring other people didn’t cross into the crime scene,” Culhane said, “traffic accidents, going to various calls of a non-high-risk nature.
“They’re the ultimate volunteer, I think, with the RCMP. They’re very passionate individuals.”
Auxiliary constables were sent a letter last week on behalf of Deputy Commissioner Janice Armstrong notifying them of the changes.
Neana Lintott, an auxiliary constable with the Strathcona County RCMP since 2008, said there are constables who are not happy with the changes and several have handed in their resignation letters.
“The emotions are raw. A lot of the auxiliaries are disappointed,” Lintott said.
“Taking away the general duty policing aspect and the ridealongs, which are considered secondary activities, is going to definitely impact our role.”
A number of local auxiliary officers have formed a group in hopes of working with the RCMP to have a say in how the role is redefined. Doing something to better their community is a big reason why many of these constables got involved in the first place, Lintott said, and she hopes it’s something that will continue.
“We’re looking at, ‘How can we think outside of the box?’ Are we still able to get out into the community? We’re not sure. We’re still waiting to hear feedback on what we’re able to do. Right now we’re not in uniform.”
Culhane said the conversation around changing the role of auxiliary officers started after Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed while he stood guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Oct. 22, 2014.
That conversation was accelerated early last year after auxiliary Const. Derek Bond was wounded while investigating a call at the Apex Casino in St. Albert on Jan. 17, 2015.
Culhane said the RCMP is still developing exactly what the new role of auxiliary officers will look like, but added it will be focused on community engagement and crime prevention.
“Those could be such activities as the D.A.R.E. Program, possibly, bicycle safety, any of the other types of community engagement that we need,” Culhane said. “They’re often in the community and they’re the conduit of information sharing between the police and community members.”
Auxiliary officers started working with the RCMP in 1963. The program was adopted in Alberta in 1978. There are about 2,000 auxiliary officers across Canada, with about 300 working in Alberta.