Vacancies within the RCMP’s rural Saskatchewan detachments may be far higher than top brass say.
Speaking on John Gormley Live Wednesday morning, Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada Media Liaison Rob Creasser said the staffing situation is far more desperate.
He noted in conversations with members of ‘F’ Division, it’s been suggested the vacancy rate could be as high as 25 per cent.
According to several members who have contacted CKOM, the understaffing has resulted in constant on-call shifts and long response times when covering large areas.
A letter to the newsroom from one member claimed that on Aug. 19, there was only one officer patrolling the regional municipalities surrounding Saskatoon.
“Many people have no idea how desperate things are in the RCMP right now,” Creasser said. “I believe the RCMP is at risk of absolutely imploding unless we get a handle on this, and we do it soon.”
In an interview with Gormley last week, Supt. Kris Vibe said the official vacancy rate in the force was four per cent.
He noted this doesn’t include officers on leave, desk duty, disability, or on maternity leave.
For those absences, there is a five-member relief team that can be deployed based on need.
But Creasser, a former mountie himself, said the version provided by Vibe is the “company line.”
He said even though women have been allowed in the RCMP since 1974, there’s still no policy on filling vacancies for when female members go on maternity leave.
Asked why this has been allowed to continue, Creasser said the threat of discipline for members has prevented them from speaking out.
“It’s in the RCMP code of conduct,” he said. “If you come out and publicly criticize the organization or government, you could be disciplined up to and including dismissal.”
Creasser added there’s been a lack of accountability, beginning with the practice of management acting as staff representatives, a practice that was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada last year.
There have also been years where the RCMP has returned money to the federal government, dollars that haven’t been used to fill vacancies.
He said it’s up to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to ensure the money is being spent correctly.
“When he was in opposition he was very critical of the Harper government,” Creasser said.
“He has the ability to make sure contracts are filled, and if they’re not filled, hold somebody accountable for that.”
He says the problem has gone unsolved for too long, and needs to be addressed now.
“We have a huge uphill battle,” he said. “And the only way we can change that is by informing the public about our workplace.”
“And it’s not a pretty picture.”