Fighting to get auxiliary police onto city streets is an uphill battle, says the man leading the charge in B.C. - InfoNews

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Fighting to get auxiliary police onto city streets is an uphill battle, says the man leading the charge in B.C.

Image Credit: Flickr/British Columbia Emergency Photography
December 12, 2018 - 6:30 PM

KELOWNA - Arjun Singh is hoping an effort by Central Okanagan cities to get Premier John Horgan involved will help get the RCMP to finally respond to his efforts to get auxiliary police officers back onto B.C.’s streets.

Singh, a Kamloops city councillor, serves as president of the Union of B.C. Municipalities which sent a letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki in August, asking her to resolve the uniform dispute with the province that seems to be holding up the program.

“The response so far has been very disappointing,” Singh told iNFOnews.ca. “It’s been a challenge for us to get any traction, not that we haven’t been trying.”

Kelowna, in response to a recent report on battling crime in its downtown, is lining up all Central Okanagan governments to send a joint letter to Horgan, asking him to help resolve the dispute and get auxiliaries trained and in service by next summer.

“The initiative out of Kelowna just supplements and works in tandem with us,” Singh said. “I’m hoping the RCMP understands this is an issue that is still quite alive and they will reopen the door for conversation.”

The program, which once provided 11,000 hours a year of volunteer service in Kelowna alone, was severely cut back in 2016 based on concerns for the safety of auxiliary officers. Auxiliaries have continued to do some work but are not on active patrol with regular RCMP officers.

One of the big issues is the uniform. The draft letter from Kelowna refers to the concern over the use of the word “volunteer” on the auxiliary uniforms. The province and cities oppose that, saying it will result in the public having less respect for auxiliaries.

But it goes beyond that, Singh said.

“The uniform kind of looks like one of those movies, like a pretend cop kind of thing who’s wearing a golf shirt,” Singh said. “The whole uniform is problematic.”

The RCMP website describes the basic uniform as a grey polo shirt, blue trouser with no stripe, navy baseball cap and an optional fluorescent 3-in1 patrol jacket. For higher tiers of service, more protective clothing can be added.

The RCMP is calling for three tiers of service. Duties for Tier One include public education, fundraising and participation in parades and public ceremonies. Training consists of online courses in things like crime prevention and ethics as well as a first aid course.

The highest level, Tier Three, allows for assisting with general duty patrols, searches of suspects, etc. Training is the same as Tier One with additional courses added.

Those standards appear to be written in stone.

“They’re really hell bent on getting these changes through,” Singh said.

He’s also worried about keeping those auxiliaries who are still serving.

“A larger concern is, these changes are causing, and may cause even more, auxiliary constables to stop volunteering and that has an impact on our communities’ safety,” Singh said. “A lot of the auxiliaries do traffic control, patrol hockey games, go around supplementing the regular members with a whole bunch of different tasks and jobs. They take this very seriously and are feeling a bit disrespected in some cases and that’s not a very good place to be.

“Ultimately, we want to make sure people are safe when they work but, if they’re feeling like they can’t do the job they want to do, and they start leaving, it becomes a problem for all of us.”


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