Last month’s attacks on Canadian soldiers in Ottawa and Montreal have prompted the RCMP to arm officers who appear in public in red serge and to take extra steps to protect auxiliary constables who volunteer unarmed in the community.
The new requirement for direct supervision is expected to mean more armed regular RCMP officers accompanying unarmed auxiliaries at major public events than did in the past, according to Assistant Commissioner Dan Malo, the Lower Mainland District Commander for the RCMP.
“Our reality changed after the events of Ottawa,” Malo said, referring to the Oct. 22 killing of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo as he guarded the National War Memorial on Parliament Hill.
He predicted the main impact will be on police staffing of major summer festivals.
“It’s a shift in our cultural thinking on how we deploy police officers or anybody that is identifiable with law enforcement.”
Operational decisions on exactly how those events are staffed will be up to the local commander based on their assessment of potential threats and other factors.
Malo was not able to say whether the changes will increase costs to cities or decrease the number of offices on duty to respond to other calls, but added policing costs will likely rise for some festivals.
That prospect has alarmed Coquitlam city council, which voted to write to RCMP national headquarters to protest the change.
The letter warns the new policy directive threatens cost-effective policing and will impact a broad range of community programs in schools and parks that are staffed by Coquitlam’s 49 auxiliaries.
“Such a change will also have a significant financial impact if sworn officers are required to provide direct supervision of all activities performed by our auxiliary constables,” the letter states. “Our existing complement of regular members will no longer be freed up to attend to other scheduled duties.”
More than 1,100 auxiliaries assist with policing across B.C. and Malo said it’s appropriate to be more careful than in the past, depending on the circumstances.
“I consider them community heroes,” Malo said. “They’re volunteers who volunteer hundreds if not thousands of hours to wear an RCMP uniform and serve their community. We have to make sure these local heroes are protected.”
RCMP officers appearing in the community in red serge often were not armed in the past.
That has changed and those officers will now carry firearms, including at Remembrance Day ceremonies.
“At things like funerals it’s very traditional we were not armed,” Malo said. “Now you will see when we are identifiable we are always armed.”