Changes in a wake of shootings disappoint volunteers
Saturday, Jan 30, 2016 06:00 am
In the wake of the deadly shooting at the Apex Casino in St. Albert, the RCMP has discontinued its ride-along program.
Auxiliary constables received a letter on behalf of Deputy Commissioner Janice Armstrong detailing changes to the program that would prevent the volunteers from participating in patrols, check-stops and traffic duties effective this week.
For Auxiliary Const. Neana Lintott, the changes didn’t come as a shock. There had been rumours of big changes circulating amidst a review, and some detachments, including the one in St. Albert, adopted modified auxiliary duties last year. But for Lintott, they did come as a disappointment.
“Emotions are definitely raw right now,” said the Lintott, who serves in Strathcona County and Sherwood Park.
Lintott joined the Auxiliary Constable Program as a means to explore a career option that had always interested her. She has since taken on the role of a dispatcher and, most recently, as a public servant in the major crimes unit, serving as a volunteer policewoman in her off hours.
“Given my life situation, I wasn’t able to relocate anywhere in Canada, which is something that you need to do as a regular member,” explained Lintott. “I was happy to still be able to work for the force and put on the uniform and help out with whatever events were going in the community and ride with the members. It was a good balance for me.”
Although she understands the need to review the role of unarmed forces, given the increasing number of violent crimes, the pride she felt in putting on the uniform makes the decision a hard pill to swallow.
The decision is the biggest change out of many currently being discussed by the RCMP. Also under review are intervention tools – the letter indicated that firearms familiarization training would be discontinued – and auxiliary uniforms.
“I think that’s one of the hardest things for the auxiliaries. We have pride in wearing that uniform and working with the regular (RCMP) members in the communities that we live in,” said Lintott.
As a measure of safety, the RCMP wants to ensure unarmed members are clearly distinguishable from their regular force counterparts.
The internal review of the auxiliary program has been ongoing since the October 2014 death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian soldier on ceremonial duty in Ottawa, which was followed by the shooting death of Const. David Wynn and the wounding of Auxilliary Const. Derek Bond in St. Albert last January.
“There have been a number of tragic events, whether with our auxiliary members or military members, there have been some events that cause us to continue to look at the evolving policing landscape that we’re working in,” said Cpl. Laurel Scott, a spokesperson for Alberta K division.
Scott said the decision should not significantly affect RCMP operations. Although auxiliary members often acted as a “second set of eyes” on patrol – regular members regularly operate without partners.
“RCMP officers are trained from the outset of our service, tactically and in the use of our tools, to be on our own on patrol. If it’s a high-risk situation then we call for back-up,” she said.
Auxiliary members would continue to play a valuable role assisting the RCMP with crime prevention and community policing activities, said Scott.
Following the receipt of the letter earlier this week, Lintott put together a working group to help fellow auxiliary members navigate the changes to the program.
She said the consensus from auxiliary members across the country was that they all understood the risk they were taking every time they laced their boots and tied their belts, and she has personally always been confident in her training and instincts.
“But at the end of the day I understand the decision from headquarters. They want to keep us safe,” said Scott.