The RCMP, which is on a hiring blitz, will now turn a blind eye to some indiscretions by its applicants, including some drug activities, CBC News has learned.

The force, which is in the midst of its largest ever recruiting drive, needs to hire close to 2,000 members over the next two years.

At the same time, an internal memo obtained by CBC News reveals the RCMP has changed its policy on drug use "to permit consideration of mitigating factors in all cases of criminal activity, which may include drug trafficking, etc." 

'Our applicants that have had some minor indiscretions in the past and that disclose those to us, that's an indication of their honesty.'— RCMP Insp. Peter Kirchberger

The former policy immediately disqualified applicants who were involved in trafficking, cultivating, producing, or manufacturing illegal drugs or substances.

The revised rules say that for all serious crimes, or for any criminal offences or activity in an applicant's history in the last three years, "the regional recruiting officers must provide written rationale detailing the mitigating factors considered."

"Our applicants that have had some minor indiscretions in the past and that disclose those to us, that's an indication of their honesty," said RCMP Insp. Peter Kirchberger of the Mounties' national recruiting program.

"And if it's not a significant criminal event in the past, then we can apply mitigating circumstances and allow that applicant to continue in the process." 

That means admitting to growing a marijuana plant or perhaps slipping a joint to a college roommate no longer means an automatic rejection from joining the force.

As a former RCMP officer, Senator Larry Campbell said he has no problem cutting applicants slack for youthful indiscretion, but added the policy is poorly written and open to interpretation.

"There should be some explanation in there about what mitigating circumstances would be and under what conditions," Campbell, who also served as the chief coroner of B.C., said in an interview.

The RCMP insists professional drug traffickers would never make it through the process and that anyone who has a major criminal conviction need not apply.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story had a secondary headline that incorrectly said minor drug convictions would no longer disqualify applicants from joining the RCMP. In fact, the RCMP's revised policy on drug use says candidates who have admitted to minor drug indiscretions will no longer be automatically disqualified.
    Mar 27, 2009 9:30 PM MT