The year is starting with good news for the Yukon: the return of the RCMP auxiliary constable program.
On Dec. 22 the RCMP did a complete about-face and reinstated the volunteer program it put on hold in February 2016 over safety concerns.
Auxiliary constables are unarmed trained volunteers who assist RCMP members in their duties.
In the Yukon that meant assisting with check stops and going on ride-alongs or helping with public safety campaigns.
The revamped program gives provinces and territories the option to use a new tiered system.
Auxiliary constables can participate in lighter community policing services in tier 1 to more intensive work in tiers 2 and 3, such as the ability to take part in general patrols and check stops.
It will be up to the Yukon government to choose which tier to fund.
Currently there are 15 auxiliary constables, 10 of which are fully trained and five who will be trained depending on the tier chosen.
For Yukon Senator Dan Lang, who’s been lobbying to keep the program, the RCMP’s moratorium “came out of nowhere.”
“They went through this very long and drawn out procedure,” Lang told the News on Tuesday.
“It took a lot of time and effort from the RCMP to come out basically with what was already in place.”
When the program was put on hold last year, RCMP cited safety concerns.
“Because they are uniformed and often work alongside their police counterparts the potential for danger exists,” Whitehorse RCMP’s Insp. Archie Thompson told the News in April 2016.
“Incidents where uniform officers have been randomly targeted, along with the shooting of an auxiliary constable in Alberta last year, demonstrated the need for increased vigilance.”
The RCMP’s national division says it’s still working on the final design of the uniforms, but it will include the word “volunteer.”
For Lang, because the provinces and territories cover the costs, and auxiliary constables are covered by the worker health and safety compensation board, there were few risks to the RCMP to begin with.
Auxiliary constables can be especially useful in smaller communities for newly posted officers, he said.
“If they have somebody who is a local and volunteer and is there able to do ride-alongs, they can learn so much about the community in a short period of time,” he said.
Yukon RCMP Superintendent Brian Jones told the News the force would ask the Yukon government to allow up to tier 3 auxiliary constables.
“We will have discussions with the Yukon government and they will have discussions among themselves about what level they’re prepared to support in terms of cost,” he said.
While the auxiliary constables are not paid, there are costs associated with uniforms, training and insurance coverage.
“I know there has been strong support across all levels of government in the Yukon for the program,” Jones said.
But he was quick to say the RCMP doesn’t rely on auxiliary constables to provide core policing services.
“They augment what we can do,” he said.
Before the moratorium, auxiliary constables helped with operational patrols – from check stops to being able to ride with the regular members in police vehicles and responding to calls for service.
-With files from Ashley Joannou
Contact Pierre Chauvin at email@example.com