The federal police force says it is experiencing difficulties in recruitment while, at the same time, members are leaving at the highest rate in the last decade. “While there has recently been an increase in departures relative to historical averages, it is likely that this is a ‘catch-up’ as 2020 saw far fewer retirements than would normally be expected,” RCMP spokesperson Kim Chamberland told The Epoch Times. “While exact reasons are difficult to determine, it appears that members delayed retirement during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Data provided by the organization shows that the attrition rate for fiscal year 2021/2022 was 4.54 percent, compared to 3.55 percent for fiscal 2020/2021. The rate was 3.37 percent in 2011/2012, and steadily climbed thereafter to reach 4.05 in 2014/2015 and then 4.52 percent in 2015/2016. The rate then steadily declined to 4.05 percent by 2019/2020.
Chamberland states that retention is high for regular members, though notes attrition is slightly more elevated for new officers who might leave for other police services or careers. She does not mention that new officers are oftentimes posted far away from where they live to respond to organizational needs, which can impact family support and morale. Chamberland also says that an updated application process is reducing time to screen applicants and it’s showing early gains.
The organization’s human resources are not impacted evenly across the country, with some provinces and territories facing a higher vacancy rate for RCMP officers. At a national level, the RCMP was short 1,234 officers for a 6.7 percent vacancy rate as of June 2022. This information was tabled by the Liberal government in the House of Commons on Jan. 30 in response to a request from Conservative MP Rosemarie Falks.
When it comes to contract policing, which is in place in every province and territory except Ontario and Quebec, British Columbia (B.C.) is the jurisdiction the most short-staffed with 460 vacancies. But B.C. does not have the highest vacancy rate at 8 percent. The Northwest Territories has the highest rate with 11.7 percent for 24 vacancies. Other provinces with high vacancies include Saskatchewan at 8.7 percent (113 vacancies) and Newfoundland and Labrador at 7.9 percent (35 vacancies). Nunavut is the least short-staffed having an extra body (140 total funded positions and -1 for funded vacancies), followed by Nova Scotia with four vacancies.
Clay Farnsworth, a retired RCMP officer and chairman of advocacy group Police on Guard, raised questions when presented with the figures for attrition and vacancy rates. He said currently serving members reaching out to his organization paint a bleaker picture of the situation, with many of them working extra shifts to cover for the shortages.
“Similar to many industries, including other policing services, the RCMP is facing challenges to attract applicants and recruit talent,” says Chamberland. The organization has hired a marketing company to bring in new recruits, she adds, in a bid to “help us attract potential candidates that have the characteristics and attributes we want in a modern police officer.” Chamberland pointed to the RCMP’s website section dedicated to change in the organization for a description of what those characteristics and attributes are.
The “Change at the RCMP” page raises common themes promoted by the Liberal government, such as the need for “diversity and inclusion,” eliminating “systemic racism,” and reconciliation with First Nations. “We are an organization with a rich history, traditions and culture, and are proud of our accomplishments. However, we know much of the work ahead involves changing aspects of our culture that no longer fit with what we are trying to achieve,” it says.
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki had initially balked at acknowledging that her organization is “systemically racist” in June 2020, shortly after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. “I did acknowledge that we, like others, have racism in our organization, but I did not say definitively that systemic racism exists in the RCMP. I should have,” Lucki then wrote in a statement a few days after.
Farnsworth says the new hiring practices show that the “government takes priority over the people.” “If the RCMP truly wanted to regain their reputation as a world leader in policing, then hiring practices would reflect hiring the best of the best regardless of race or gender,” he says.
Lucki announced earlier this month she took the personal decision to retire on March 17, one month before the end of her five-year term. “I’m so proud of the steps we’ve taken to modernize—to increase accountability, address systemic racism, ensure a safe and equitable workplace and advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples,” she stated.