SURREY — Changes to the national RCMP auxiliary constable program be felt more in Surrey, Canada’s largest detachment, than anywhere else in the country.
At a time when the public is calling for more police to help fight crime in this city roughly 80 volunteer officers — the largest contingent of roughly 1,600 auxiliaries across Canada — learned this week from RCMP headquarters in Ottawa that they will no longer be able to ride with Mounties, receive firearms familiarizing training, and that their uniforms will be changed to better distinguish them from regular officers.
This comes after a year-long review following the fatal January 2015 shooting of Const. David Wynn at a casino outside Edmonton. Auxiliary Const. David Bond, a volunteer police officer since 2008, was also injured.
Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy said the auxiliary program has not been shut down.
“The Surrey RCMP has always maintained that our auxiliary constables play an important role in our community in crime prevention and community engagement and we fully committed to having this vital role continue in our community,” Fordy told the Now.
Fordy noted the auxiliary constables are unarmed volunteers “whose primary purpose is to participate in community policing services such as community engagement and crime prevention.”
But because they are unarmed and work alongside Mounties, he added, “the potential for danger exists.
“Incidents where uniformed officers have been randomly targeted, along with the shooting of an auxiliary constable in Alberta last year, demonstrated the need for increased vigilance,” Fordy said. “For this reason the RCMP has discontinued the ride along component nationally for the auxiliary officers — I support this approach.”
Cpl. Janelle Shoihet, a spokeswoman for RCMP “E” Division, said the auxiliary constables will continue to perform crime prevention, community engagement and other duties and “considerations are being made to uniform changes, as we recognize that they may be identified as a police officer while on duty in uniform, which puts them at risk of harm.
“When auxiliary constables are in uniform they will need to be accompanied by a regular member who is equipped with intervention options,” Shoihet added.