National Police Services need funding fix: RCMP

The RCMP says it can no longer cover a multimillion-dollar funding shortfall for the National Police Services — which include fingerprint identification and an investigation centre for missing children, according to documents obtained by CBC News.

Federal funding for NPS has dropped by $20M since 2006-07, with Mounties making up the difference

The RCMP says it can no longer cover a multimillion-dollar funding shortfall for the National Police Services — which include fingerprint identification and an investigation centre for missing children, according to documents obtained by CBC News.

Documents obtained by the CBC indicate that federal funding for National Police Services has dropped by roughly $20 million since 2006-07. ((Shaun Best/Reuters))

Officers from police forces across the country use National Police Services every day by running criminal record checks, accessing the national sex offender registry and training officers at the Canadian Police College. NPS is funded by the federal government but administered by the RCMP for all forces.

Documents obtained by the CBC indicate that federal funding for NPS has dropped by roughly $20 million since 2006-07. The RCMP has made up the difference by spending tens of millions of its own budget over the same period.

This year alone, RCMP projections suggest the national force will spend $28.3 million from its own budget to maintain the programs.

National Police Services: 5-year budget history

  2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10  2010/11
 Federal funding (in millions) $171.1M $153.3 $154.6  $153.0 $151.3 
 Internal RCMP funding - carry forward (in millions)  $1.5  $14.1  $22.2  $21.0  $28.3
 % of federal funding 1.1% 8.9% 14.4% 13.7%   18.7%
(RCMP figures)

RCMP Deputy Commissioner Line Carbonneau said the force has been able to cover the growing funding gap by spending its annual surplus. However, thanks to a recent recruitment drive that filled thousands of positions across Canada, the surplus has all but dried up. Carbonneau called the situation unsustainable.

"That money that we're using for NPS should probably be going to other services within the RCMP," she said.

Carbonneau said the RCMP is bringing the issue to police forces across the country through the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Carbonneau said the RCMP wants to know what services officers use the most and can't do without.

"It's with our policing partners that we're going to be able to decide exactly where we can cut, if possible, and how we can improve the service with the budget we have," she said.

'Serious discussion' needed

Ottawa police Chief Vern White believes the Mounties have been unfairly subsidizing National Police Services.

"There needs to be some serious discussion federally about the expectation of National Police Services and how it supports all of us, not just the RCMP."

Possible solutions on the table include asking provincial and municipal police to pay, cutting services and becoming more efficient. White said police must have an open mind.

"Maybe there is a higher fee-for-service on police services; I don't know. I just know that right now running deficits is not going to allow us to continue using that service," White said.

'Cuts by stealth': Liberal MP

Liberal MP Mark Holland doesn't want the costs downloaded to local police.

He said the federal government should restore funding.

"Effectively, it's cuts by stealth. They're slashing money to the RCMP and pretending that they're not," said Holland.

Toews says RCMP working with provinces

On Tuesday morning in Ottawa, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews was asked whether the federal government was considering pitching in additional funds to cover the costs of running NPS.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says the RCMP is working with provincial and local authorities to figure out how to fund National Police Services such as fingerprinting and the sex offender registry. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

"The RCMP has been picking up a number of additional services over the years as policing becomes more complicated and there's a greater demand for their services," Toews said.

"All I can say at this point is that the RCMP is working together with provincial and municipal authorities to determine who this will be handled on a going-forward basis. I don't have any further comments to make on that."

Toews was unveiling a new NPS service — real-time fingerprint identification — that would require police forces to buy new fingerprint scanners developed by the RCMP.

Toews urged forces to buy the scanners, saying the service would help reduce wait times for those requiring security checks for employment and volunteer positions.

He said it was up to provincial and municipal governments to pay for the scanners, which cost between $5,000 and $10,000.

With files from The Canadian Press