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Safety concerns prompt auxiliary changes

Posted on February 11, 2016 by Vauxhall Advance

Nikki Jamieson
Vauxhall Advance
njamieson@tabertimes.com

The new changes to the RCMP auxiliary program will mean no more ride-alongs.

In the Taber/Vauxhall RCMP delegation to the Municipal District of Taber regular council meeting on Feb. 9, Sgt. Kevin McKenna and Cst. Melanie Schefter told council that due to safety concerns, there will be no more ride-alongs.

“The auxiliary program, basically now nationally across the board, (there) are no more ride-alongs, and no more being by themselves in uniform,” said McKenna to council. “Because of safety issues, we had one (auxiliary constable) shot last year, it’s off the boards… We’re not just doing away with auxiliary.”

On Jan. 17, 2015, auxiliary Cst. Derek Walter Bond and RCMP Cst. David Mathew Wynn had walked into a casino in St. Albert during a routine investigation, when Bond was shot in the arm and torso and Wynn was fatally shot in the head.

This launched a review of the auxiliary program, whose finding led to changes that were announced late last month.

The auxiliary program was introduced in 1963, with the goal of enhancing community policing. Auxiliary constables are unarmed, unpaid and uniformed RCMP volunteers, and are governed under provincial legislation, whose role is to assist RCMP officers with their duties.

An Auxiliary constable may have a peace officer or like status in the force, depending on provincial or territorial statutes, and there are approximately 1,600 across Canada.

But because they are unarmed and are civilians, not police officers, there is a serious safety issue on what would happen if they are faced with an attacker.

“We’re not doing away with just auxiliaries, we’re doing away with all ride-alongs,” said McKenna. “Summer students and all that, they will not be riding with us anymore.”

However, the changes have prompted outcry from auxiliary constables, who feel that the RCMP is eliminating a lot of what they do and what drew them to the program in the first place. McKenna expressed to council that he felt that this was not wise.

“This is my opinion, and only my opinion, I think we’ll see the auxiliary program fail, because a lot of people join the auxiliary so they can do ride alongs,” said McKenna.

“(It gives them) experience, exposure to what we do. I think a lot of (RCMP) recruits did join the auxiliary program so they can get an idea of (the job),” said Schefter, answering Brian Brewin, reeve for the M.D, on whether they recruited people from the program.

Part of this also comes from the ISIS threat, recent terrorism attacks and the Oct. 22, 2014, Ottawa attack, in which a lone gunman fatally shot Canadian Honour Guard Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the War Memorial, before being killed at Parliament Hill.

ISIS has called for its supports to kill any police officer or soldier in uniform on sight, which has prompted the ban of their uniforms from being worn outside of work.

“We can’t have auxiliaries walking around, without firearms or equipped or trained (in uniform),” said McKenna. “The military, they’re taking some steps that they won’t be off the base in uniform and stuff. There is a lot of steps being taken.”

Along with stopping the ride-alongs, other changes to the program include:

* Discontinuing firearm familiarization
* The creation of a National Activity matrix, outlining the duties of an auxiliary constable
* Establishing a National training standard
* Updating national policy
* Reviewing uniform options

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