The RCMP’s recruitment situation can be accurately described as a crisis, says the force’s independent advisory board – which could threaten its ability to serve as Canada’s national police force.
This is the conclusion of the Management Advisory Board report, a supervisory body that provides advice to RCMP commissioners, after reviewing the RCMP cadet training program. The report was written by a board task force focused on training issues.
The report, which was shared with CBC News, recommends an overhaul of what is taught to cadets at the RCMP depot in Regina to keep pace with modern policing.
“More than once, the task force has heard the recruitment situation described as ‘crisis,’ a description that does not consider the task force to be exaggerated,” the board member wrote.
“If this [regular members] not being replaced by new cadets from diverse backgrounds and with the capacity to serve, the RCMP will be further challenged to fulfill its service delivery commitments under provincial, territorial and municipal police service agreements, and to maintain federal police capacity.”
“This is a very, very significant challenge,” said Angela Campbell, a law professor at McGill University and a member of the advisory board task force.
“So we recommend some concrete steps that we hope the RCMP will take to increase recruitment in general, but specifically, recruitment of Indigenous members.”
The RCMP’s federal police mandate covers several high-profile cases, including investigations of foreign interference and espionage.
The troop’s struggle to press charges over allegations of foreign interference has been highlighted by claims that Beijing meddled in Canada’s last two federal elections. RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme has said publicly that he would like to see more charges brought against the foreign interference files.
Through provincial, territorial and municipal policing contracts, the RCMP also functions as jurisdictional police in most provinces and around 150 municipalities.
Nadine Huggins, the RCMP’s chief human resources officer, said recruiting was a concern but insisted the troop should not relinquish responsibility.
“There’s no question that recruitment is a top priority in today’s organization, and we’ve been building and flying at the same time,” he said.
“I think policing is massively going through the reckoning. The RCMP is no different.”
Part of the RCMP’s problem are repeated reports of systemic racism and harassment in the ranks of pressured recruiting.
“We are both subservient to the society in which we live and policing is not the most popular profession,” says Huggins.
“Do I like to think about the changes we made [are] make us more attractive? I believe it is true.”
Concerns about the ‘quantity and quality’ of cadets
The advisory board’s report also pointed to “deep concern and concern about the quantity and quality of cadet recruits.”
“The recruitment process remains administratively arduous and burdensome, lengthy and inaccessible for many prospective cadets, especially from remote communities and/or indigenous peoples,” said the report.
Campbell said failing to address recruitment shortages only increased the risk of burnout among service members.
“That means there will be potentially consequences for these people in terms of tensions and demands that may be impossible to meet,” he said.
“It also impacts the communities where the RCMP provides police and safety services.”
Huggins said that for years, the RCMP hiring process was all about getting people out. The new recruitment strategy, driven by the task force’s report, is about bringing in “the right people,” he said.
“We’re not compromising standards in any way, shape or form just to get more body in the door,” he said.
One of the changes introduced by the squad is the psychological assessment update.
“We’re really looking at how well-suited someone is for a policing career, whether they have resilience, emotional intelligence, capacity to really manage people. All of those things are now being assessed as part of our process,” Huggins said.
“So as soon as people come into our academy now, they come with more of a foundation, a culture that we want to build within the organization. They’ve come with those attributes.”
Brian Sauvé, head of the RCMP union, said recruiting was improving slightly. He said the number of applications is slowly increasing.
“It’s almost a crisis now,” said Sauvé. “We are moving in a positive direction.”
He said his union’s fight for a substantial pay rise and recruitment campaign funding might help turn things around.
Sauvé said he didn’t think the RCMP would have any trouble fulfilling its mandate if the federal government continued to “step on the gas”.
“We’ve seen the shrinking of federal police positions to subsidize contract policing. But those positions are eventually frozen or cut or cancelled,” he said.
“So we definitely need funds, funds, funds, so that the RCMP can fulfill its demands. And they haven’t.”
Report calls for major changes to cadet training
The Management Advisory Board review also calls for major changes to what is taught to cadets once they are recruited.
Campbell calls the cadet training program – a 26-week basic training course that all Mounties at the RCMP academy take – “ground zero” for the RCMP culture.
“An academy that not only shapes the content of what these officers will do, but also … the values and commitments they will hold,” he said.
“I personally can’t consider things like tactical engineering, defense training, driving, things to do with ballistics, and that’s completely out of my area of expertise. But on things to do with civilians, and questions about safety and interaction, we think it’s really important to see what cadets are learning.”
The RCMP serves diverse communities across Canada, said the task force report, and “should provide the necessary training to equip [regular members] to provide effective policing services to all Canadians, including communities that have traditionally been underserved by law enforcement and/or ‘over-monitored’ as a result of implicit bias and faulty social policies.”
The report encourages more cultural awareness in training programmes, noting that while the curriculum already integrates some elements of culture and diversity, they are only mentioned briefly.
“Primarily, training on Indigenous history and reconciliation, cultural diversity, and bias is limited and exists in a separate module from the CTP course materials,” said the report.
The task force said cadets would be better prepared for careers as Mounties if they were better trained in issues such as “hate crimes, cultural awareness/humility, culturally appropriate responses, unconscious bias, racism, and Canada’s commitment to reconciliation.”
“The task force further observed that it is very difficult to ascertain where and how cadets learn about issues such as unconscious bias, social and racial profiling, carding, and road checks, all of which are known to be problematic practices in modern policing, leading to escalations to arrests. disproportionate and disproportionate charges against Indigenous and racial – especially black – Canadians,” the report said.
“These elements have to be linked to the basic day-to-day work of policing.”
Patrick Watson, a professor of criminology at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the advisory board’s report was just another call for the RCMP to reform.
“The report really shows that you need some kind of root-and-branch reconsideration of what it means to be a police officer in this country,” he said.
Some drills lead to cadet injuries: report
The task force commended several changes made to the depot’s facilities in recent years — including the addition of a Spirit Room to honor the presence of Indigenous people, the development of special headgear for men who wear beards for religious reasons, and an updated menu to honor religion. diet.
The Management Advisory Board also found that the training program sometimes resulted in injury and fatigue.
“For example, the practice of ‘doubling down’, which refers to marching at double the usual pace between classroom and recess, was reported to lead to cadet injuries,” the report stated.
“Moreover, interviews with facilitators and cadets revealed that the current curriculum does not allow for adequate time management and cadets are required to keep training on weekends to manage their workload. The end result is burnout for some, and the downsides of adding to the workload seem to outweigh any potential benefits.”
Huggins said the RCMP has embraced all elements of the advisory board’s recommendations.
“We have started to make progress on some of them. Where we are still gaining momentum is around a full curriculum review,” he said.
The report comes after the Nova Scotia Commission of Mass Casualties’ final report, which recommended the RCMP discontinue the RCMP training depot model by 2032 and that the government instead create a three-year degree-based model.
“I appreciate the fact that the Management Advisory Board names the RCMP depot as essentially a world-class facility that trains law enforcement from around the world and all over Canada. It’s a nice thing in their hat,” said Sauvé.
“Could they refresh it? I think for sure.”
Saskatchewan Prime Minister Scott Moe and other politicians in the province opposed the recommendation, arguing the depot represented economic gain and historic pride for Regina.
The Mass Casualties Commission called for fundamental changes in the RCMP and made 130 recommendations.
While Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has yet to formally commit to the findings of the Mass Casualties Commission report, Watson said he was “quietly optimistic” that change was coming.
“I just don’t see how taxpayers continue to be asked to fund these services unless we start looking at these reforms,” he said.
“Is the government going to enforce it? I really hope so.”
Mendicino’s office did not respond to a request for comment from the CBC.