A former RCMP commissioner says it's time to phase out two-member police detachments, which are fairly common in Canada's remote and northern communities.
Norman Inkster said new RCMP officers in remote communities are dealing with more violence and therefore require more immediate backup. More officers should be added to these small detachments or they should eventually be closed, Inkster said.
"Now with the prevalence of some guns in our country, drugs in some of the remote locations, and so on, the kind of crime that young members are facing has escalated as well," Inkster, who was RCMP commissioner from 1987 to 1994, told CBC News.
It has been two years since the RCMP rolled out its new backup policy, which expands the force's use of fly-in policing for remote communities, sets up officer relief squads and defines situations in which members may not respond to calls by themselves.
The policy was introduced after two RCMP constables in northern Canada were gunned down while responding alone to calls for assistance in late 2007:
Assistant RCMP Commissioner Doug Lang said no policy could ever eliminate all risk, but the latest policy means members know when to call for help, who their backups are and where they're located.
In addition to the new backup policy, officers are also being paid more for being on standby. The force also has pools of officers ready to fill in when someone is ill or on vacation.
But Lang said there are still 39 two-person detachments across Canada. Officers in two-person detachments essentially work or are on-call 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
"We have a number of two-person and three-person detachments still in existence across Canada," Lang said. "To jack those all up to a minimum standard of five persons is next to impossible in today's economic situation."
The solution would not just involve hiring more Mounties, Lang said. Many remote communities have such severe housing shortages, there would be no place for the officers to live.
As well, bigger police stations don't necessarily make them safer, Lang added.
"Having five-person, 10-person, 15-person detachments isn't going to change the risk that's involved in some of the work we do," he said.
Lang said the RCMP would like to add a third officer to some of its two-member detachments, but it would be ideal for every detachment to have five Mounties each.
"At five members at a detachment, people can actually have some free time off, unencumbered free time off, they're not on call," he said.
Inkster said provinces and territories that hire the RCMP to police their communities should commit to taking on the costs of boosting detachment numbers.
"Are you, the government of Yukon or the province of Alberta, are you prepared to pay for additional resources so we can move those detachments from two people to three?" Inkster said.
If provinces and territories are not willing to pay for more officers, Inkster said, the RCMP should consider closing the two-person detachments.With files from Alison Crawford