RCMP officers union raises concerns about staff cuts, realignment at Windsor detachment
Ontario RCMP disputes union's position on job cuts
The union representing RCMP officers is raising concerns about staff reductions at the Windsor detachment and a "realignment" of remaining staff that it says will hurt its ability to handle major investigations.
The union says the number of officers in the serious and organized crime unit is being cut and the remaining ones are being relabelled as a "border integrity unit." In addition to the serious crime unit, the RCMP also has traditionally had a national security enforcement team and marine patrols stationed in Windsor.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in an email to CBC while there is a realignment of local resources, the detachment will still have 27 service members working there along with 3 additional civilian staff and that serious and organized crime investigations will still happen.
Pete Merrifield, the vice president of the National Police Federation, the RCMP labour union, told CBC's Windsor Morning Friday about his concerns.
He and Windsor West MP Brian Masse say the reduction in staff is concerning and disappointing.
The Windsor detachment is "probably one of the most important detachments in the province of Ontario and one of the most important detachments nationally in relation to the RCMP Border Integrity Program," said Merrifield, but adds this reduction in officers will mean there won't be enough bodies to undertake meaningful investigations.
"If we don't maintain a vibrant border integrity program dealing with illegal weapons smuggling, we're putting Canadians at risk," he said.
The RCMP in Ontario — also known as the RCMP O Division — statement to CBC News addressing the concerns said the local detachment would focus on border security and that marine patrols will continue.
"The nature of crime within the federal mandate is becoming increasingly sophisticated and complex," the statement said. "The Border Integrity focus in Windsor ensures that the RCMP has the human resources and operational structure necessary to prevent and fight crime in an evolving threat environment."
The email says the realignment does not mean that investigations of serious and organized crime won't take place. It says those investigations will be "transitioned" to other teams within the O Division.
"We've been well-served by the RCMP in this jurisdiction," Masse said. "They've been a signature part of protecting, you know, not only just our local citizens, but all Canadians along our border in particular."
Merrifield said he doesn't know for certain what caused these cuts, but attributes some of the reason to the ongoing human resources crisis in the RCMP nationally.
Job cuts across the board
Merrifield said the job cuts are a result of "years of neglect, both by the federal government and senior management in the RCMP."
"The RCMP has gone from being a very attractive national police force employer where we were competitive, to we're about the bottom out of 100 police agencies in Canada for pay. And sadly, pay, in any career, is an attractive mode for new candidates. So we're not meeting our annual quotas for recruitment and that's created shortages."
Masse was surprised to learn of the change to the RCMP's Windsor complement.
"I'm disappointed to hear that. I'll have to find out the reasons why and what's taking place," he said.
"I'm hoping that there is some type of business plan that can be presented because living on a border community and dealing with the comprehensive law enforcement that's necessary -- and especially with the United States changing administration -- we might perhaps see [a desire for] more cooperation to prevent smuggling and other types of activity that the RCMP does quite successfully," said Masse.
What does the RCMP in Windsor do?
"The RCMP is responsible for border security between official Ports of Entry, both on land and in the water. Patrolling the border is done by RCMP marine sections, including one specialized Shiprider team operating out of the Windsor Detachment," according to the statement from the O Division.
Local RCMP officers don't wear the traditional uniforms, so the focus for them is predominantly "federal style of policing," said Merrifield.
He explains that the RCMP officers in Windsor try to maintain some control and deep investigation on the cross-border movement of illicit items, such as drugs, illegal tobacco, alcohol, firearms and other criminal activity.
Merrifield said he beleives that the cut in officers working in Windsor will have a negative impact on the community.
"You just can't undertake a meaningful investigation without human capacity. And that's investigators that can write warrants, investigators that constitute surveillance teams, investigators that get involved in identifying potential human source contacts, recruiting sources," he said.
"It's very labour intensive to run a large scale police project type of investigation. You know, most project teams are made up of 10 or 12 bodies minimum at this capacity. Dividing those 17 remaining bodies to the two border points, cutting them in half for those on duty and those off duty, you barely have enough bodies to actually run a single investigation."
O Division said it "remains positioned to deliver on its public safety responsibilities, demonstrates stewardship of human and financial resources and is responsive to employee safety and well-being."
- This article has been amended to include comment from the RCMP and to correct errors regarding the numbers for cuts and remaining staff.Dec 03, 2020 2:06 PM ET