RCMP officers asked to justify calls for backup, e-mail reveals

RCMP officers in Nunavut, where a Mountie was shot and killed last month while responding alone to a call, were being asked to justify every time they responded to police calls in pairs, according to an internal e-mail.
RCMP officers in Nunavut— where aMountie was shot and killedlast month while responding alone to a call—were being askedto justify every time they responded to police calls in pairs, according to an internal e-mail.
RCMP Const. Douglas Scott, 20, was shot while answering a call on Nov. 5. ((RCMP/Canadian Press))

In a June e-mail to detachment commanders in Nunavut, an e-mail that was obtained by CBC News, a senior regional officer wrote that while reviewing overtime claims he noticed some units sent two members to all calls.

"The direction that I am giving you, the detachment commander, is to ensure that you and the member(s) under your command base your response to calls on appropriate risk assessment,"he wrote in the e-mail.

"Note on all OT claims how many members responded to every call. When more then [sic] one member responds to a call provide an explanation."

He said that while officer safety is of paramount importance, "Just because a person is drunk or in an ugly mood does not justify two members.
Const. Christopher Worden, 30, died after being shot in October in the Northwest Territories. ((RCMP/Canadian Press))

"You have extensive training and several tools available to you in dealing with these situations," the e-mail states.

"To enhance your safety ensure that you familiarize yourself with the people and houses that are known to be dangerous to police but that in itself is not justification for two members on every call. It is a 'heads up' to not let your guard down when dealing with these individuals," he writes.

"A single member response is still going on down south and will continue to happen down south and in the north for years to come," the e-mail says.

RCMP policystates that unless responding to a domestic dispute or a situation that could clearly turn violent, officers are to judge for themselves whether they need backup.

'It burns me'

But some criticshave called for the RCMP to implement a mandatory backup policy in the wake of the recent shooting deaths of two Mounties.

Const. Douglas Scott, 20,was shot and killed last month while responding to a drunk-driving complaint in Kimmirut, Nunavut.In October, Const. Christopher Worden,30, was gunned down in Hay River, N.W.T. Inthe cases of Scott and Worden, bothofficers answered the service calls alone, late at night.

"Someone died because we're trying to save a dollar perhaps," said RCMP Sgt. Dan Laurence, who worked in Nunavut for four years, including one year at the RCMP's two-person detachment in Kimmirut.

"It burns me. We have to be realistic about policework. It is a lot more dangerous," Laurence told CBC News.

Laurence said that officers should always have backup. He said no one knows how events would haveunfolded if Worden or Scott had a partner with them on the nights they were killed. But Laurence said it certainly would nothave hurt to have backup.

"We should have no members going to a call alone.Never. In any situation, regardless of years of service and all that because you know what? A bullet doesn't recognize if you've got 25 years service or five months service."

Senior members of the RCMP have been working on a national backup policy for 10 years.

RCMP officials were expected to finalize the policy Monday, but have put it off for another two weeks. All senior executives were unable to meet to discuss the issue.