Police in over their heads

Recently, Parks Canada employees, environmental engineers and a city firefighter took part in a two-day ice-rescue course in Whitehorse. RCMP officers did not. And that is odd.

Recently, Parks Canada employees, environmental engineers and a city firefighter took part in a two-day ice-rescue course in Whitehorse.

RCMP officers did not.

And that is odd.

Because it is the RCMP that is tasked with pulling people from the water in an emergency. And it is the RCMP that is paid for the service.

But the police are not required to train in water or ice rescues.


It is too expensive, according to RCMP officials.

A police spokesman could not say how many officers had water rescue training. Or what kind of training they had.

Not exactly confidence inspiring, is it?

It should be noted the force is paid $21 million a year to provide policing services in the Yukon. That includes water rescues, though officials cannot say how much it is paid to provide that specific service.

As well, it should be noted that in Vancouver it is the fire department that provides water and ice rescue services.

And in Calgary. And Edmonton. And Winnipeg. And Ottawa. And even Yellowknife.


Well, because they are trained in rescue. Police are trained in law enforcement, according to Yellowknife fire Chief Craig MacLean.

Here, Whitehorse firefighters are equipping themselves.

They have the desire. They are, as a rule, pretty good with ropes, which is often necessary in the water.

And they have the time.

Police, on the other hand, are always prowling around looking for bad guys.

And they are required to wear armour. And heavy boots. And utility belts sporting handcuffs, flashlights, a pistol, bullets and other law-enforcement items.

This stuff weighs a lot. And it’s not the type of thing you can drop on a riverbank while you swim out to help somebody drowning in a swift-moving river.

It makes no sense.

And it raises some questions.

Why are we paying the RCMP for a service they are ill-equipped, ill trained and indifferent about providing?

Is it simply a cash grab? A way for the police to pad their budget – taking money for a job they aren’t really providing?

It looks that way.

And is this a good use of public money?

Probably not.

It’s also dangerous to the police.

A while ago, two police officers were dispatched to rescue a kayaker from Miles Canyon. They scrabbled down the cliff fully equipped in gear and armour – like modern knights. And about as buoyant.

Had their steel-toed boots slipped off the rock face there would have been a sound -“splunk”- and that would have been that. Done.


So are they the best to do water and ice rescue? Probably not.

Ambulance drivers know this. So do firefighters. But they won’t tell anyone that – there’s a code among such paramilitary types. They are strong, silent types. Even when it comes to the pig-headed stupidity of their budget-protecting peers.

So, let’s crack the blue shield – firefighters are far better equipped to do water rescue.

They have the staff.

They have the time.

They are willing to be trained.

The cops do not.

So, why are the cops tasked to do the job?

They shouldn’t be. Especially in the Yukon’s major centres.

The territory should transfer responsibility for water and ice rescue to the fire departments.

It should transfer a wad of cash to go with the responsibility.

It should pull the job from the RCMP.

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