RCMP recruiting ‘crisis’ cited in report adds wrinkle to Surrey police decision

Click to play video: 'RCMP advisory report shows staffing concerns'
RCMP advisory report shows staffing concerns
WATCH: A report obtained by Global News shows RCMP staffing concerns have been going on for much longer than Surrey's police debate. But as Richard Zussman reports, the head of the Mounties' union says the findings are outdated – May 3, 2023

An internal report looking at RCMP recruitment and training is adding further complexity to questions about the future of policing in Surrey, B.C.

The report, produced in June 2022 by the RCMP’s Management Advisory Board’s Training and Education Taskforce and obtained by Global News, called for an overhaul at the national force’s Depot training facility.

Click to play video: 'B.C. premier weighs in on Surrey policing controversy'
B.C. premier weighs in on Surrey policing controversy

What’s more, it found “deep concern” about both the quality and quantity of recruits coming into the force.

Story continues below advertisement

“More than once, the Taskforce heard the recruitment situation described as a ‘crisis,’ a descriptor that did not strike the Taskforce as exaggerated,” the report states.

“The process for recruitment remains too administratively heavy and burdensome, lengthy and inaccessible for many prospective cadets, especially from remote and/or Indigenous communities. The Taskforce detected a profound worry among a multitude of key stakeholders, as the organization is at a precipice of a large number of retirements.”

That finding echoes concerns outlined by B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth last week, as he recommended Surrey complete its transition to a municipal police force and end its contract with the RCMP.

Click to play video: 'Surrey mayor says response to policing report will take time'
Surrey mayor says response to policing report will take time

In making the recommendation, Farnworth said keeping the RCMP would exacerbate police shortages elsewhere in the province. The B.C. RCMP currently faces an 8.9 per cent vacancy rate, about double the national rate. Farnworth did not have access to the RCMP report when he made his recommendation.

Story continues below advertisement

“What we see in the report is what we also see in the analysis that was provided to me by my director of police services and my ministry, and its challenges around recruitment and re-staffing,” Farnworth said.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

“My responsibility is public safety, not just for Surrey but for the rest of the province. That’s obviously very concerning.”

The report warned that if the recruitment issues were not resolved, the force would be “even more challenged” to meet its commitments under provincial, territorial and municipal service agreements, and said current members who are already stretched could face more stress and mental health issues.

Click to play video: 'Extended Interview: BC Solicitor General gives perspective on Surrey policing situation'
Extended Interview: BC Solicitor General gives perspective on Surrey policing situation

It said new funding for recruiting and advertising were a “good start,” but called on the force to develop a “multi-pronged recruitment strategy” with specific  efforts to diversify the force and reach out to Indigenous communities.

Story continues below advertisement

Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation which represents RCMP officers, said the report represents a snapshot of a “moment in time” at Depot, coming out of the pandemic.

“A lot of their interviews and what they reported on is seven to nine months old. A lot has changed. They were obviously coming to it from a very recent post-pandemic Depot,” he said.

“The place was a ghost town, it is no longer a ghost town. The amount of applicants, the amount of cadets, and the number of people in that hopper to become police officers in the RCMP, whether it be for B.C., whether it be for Surrey, or whether it be for Nunavut, Newfoundland and Labrador is actually looking really good.”

Sauvé said the RCMP has recently cut the time from application to acceptance into RCMP training down to six to eight months from 16 to 24 months.

Depot, he said, has the capacity to nearly double the amount of recruits it is currently training as well.

“Let’s pump up the capacity, we have the applicants that are coming in now, let’s actually push them through,” he said.

“Seeing the numbers on a regular basis of what’s coming into the pipeline for applicants and how fast the RCMP is actually processing those applicants, I have no doubt they will be able to meet the demands.”

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Funding fallout over Surrey policing recommendation'
Funding fallout over Surrey policing recommendation

In an interview with Global News in April, Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, commanding officer of B.C.’s E-Division, said the force was in the early stages of launching a new national recruiting campaign to fill vacancies.

He pointed to a recently signed contract that improves RCMP pay and an expansion of a program to recruit experienced officers as potential solutions to B.C.’s high vacancy rate, along with agreements that allow recruits from B.C. to return to B.C. to serve.

While the report points to potential staffing hurdles for the RCMP, Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke has argued that the new Surrey Police Service (SPS) will face recruiting challenges of its own.

“If the provincial government was serious about this from the get-go, they would have increased dramatically the funding to the Justice Institute,” she said.

Story continues below advertisement

“We, last year, were allowed 23 new officers to go through the JI … They will never get to to the numbers they need, so it’s interesting, they’re concerned about recruitment for the RCMP, but the reality is, the real challenge is going to be for the for the SPS to man up.”

The province says it is confident the Justice Institute, which trains peace officers, is graduating enough recruits, and that increasing the number of graduates has been a part of the police transition all along.

Click to play video: 'Confusion persists over Surrey policing recommendation'
Confusion persists over Surrey policing recommendation

The question of which force to stick with now rests with Surrey city council.

As it stands, the SPS provides 50 per cent of its front-line policing duties with a complement of more than 330 officers.

The province has offered $150 million to help defray the costs of completing the transition to the Surrey Police Service, but said it will not cover the estimated $72 million that keeping the RCMP would cost in SPS severance.

Story continues below advertisement

Locke has said city staff are now completing a feasibility study on the situation based on the province’s final report and recommendation.

Sponsored content