Nanaimo RCMP detachment has ended its volunteer auxiliary police program.
The move to terminate the program came in December, due in part to budget restrictions and safety concerns.
“A lot of issues had to be considered in this,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman. “One is there’s a cost factor.”
The $40,000 annual budget, O’Brien said, covered training and uniforms and the detachment had to look at that and how it could be better used, which included supporting two new positions within the detachment – a forensic digital analysis specialist and a discovery specialist who gathers and prepares files for cases that are being forwarded the Crown – that have recently been approved by Nanaimo city council.
The limited role of auxiliary officers also raised concerns about duplication of services. Auxiliary constables no longer fulfill the same role they once did, O’Brien said, and no longer carry firearms. Their duties were heavily restricted and new safety protocols were brought into place after auxiliary constable David Bond was wounded in a shooting that claimed the life of Const. David Wynn near Edmonton in 2015.
“They used to do ride-alongs with regular members and we no longer allow that for safety reasons,” O’Brien said.
Duty restriction have brought the role of auxiliaries more in line with tasks currently performed by community policing volunteers, such as Crime Watch patrols in which volunteers don’t take action, but strictly report observed suspicious or criminal activity.
O’Brien said because there’s now a lot of crossover between activities and training of auxiliary constables and community policing volunteers, the hope is that existing auxiliaries or people who are thinking about becoming auxiliaries will decide to join Nanaimo’s community policing program.
“They would be a tremendous asset, by bringing their observation skills to work with other volunteers and continue with our Crime Watch program,” he said. “We’ve recently had dialogue. We’ve given the auxiliaries some time to digest the information. [The auxiliary program] is a program that we have believed in for many years.”
The number of auxiliary officers in Nanaimo has dropped in recent years to about 12 members.
Other municipalities have continued the program. Cpl. Jesse Foreman, spokesman for Oceanside RCMP detachment, said in an e-mail that the detachment, which serves communities from Nanoose Bay to Deep Bay, including Parksville and Qualicum, has four auxiliary constables.
“However, as with many things these days, things are at a standstill with COVID,” Foreman said. “When the pandemic is over, our auxiliary officers will be back helping the Oceanside detachment.”
COVID-19 restrictions have curtailed much of the police officer training normally conducted for regular and auxiliary members, some of which is carried out at the RCMP Pacific Region Training Centre in Chilliwack, O’Brien said.
“Moving forward, we won’t be having an active auxiliary policing program and we’re certainly encouraging them to consider joining in with the community policing program, of which now we have upwards, I think, of 35 [members] and they’re doing really productive things in the community,” he said.
O’Brien said some volunteers use the community policing program as a stepping stone to pursuing careers in law enforcement.