RCMP looking to update de-escalation training, will introduce new anti-racism program: Lucki

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki says the force is looking to update its de-escalation training and will soon introduce new mandatory anti-racism training — measures that came in the wake of mounting scrutiny of the national police force's actions in recent months.

RCMP commissioner appeared before standing committee on public safety and national security Monday evening

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki says the force is looking at updating its de-escalation training. (CBC)

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki says the force is looking to update its de-escalation training and will soon introduce new mandatory anti-racism training — measures that came in the wake of mounting scrutiny of the national police force's actions in recent months.

"I've been listening. I've been learning," Lucki, who has come under criticism for struggling to address systemic racism in the force, told the standing committee on public safety and national security during an appearance Monday evening.

"We're looking at our organization as a whole, and we're looking at those systems and those processes, those policies and procedures that will eliminate systemic racism."

Lucki said the RCMP has helped set up two task forces: one looking at police intervention tactics and another at mental health calls. 

The RCMP — which provides contract policing in all three territories and most provinces — has been under added pressure to explain how it responds to mental health crises since an officer shot and killed Rodney Levi, a member of the Metepenagiag First Nation in New Brunswick, in early June. His death is now under review by an outside police watchdog agency. 

The number of interactions between the Mounties and people experiencing mental health crises is steadily increasing in most provinces and territories, according to newly released figures.

Last year, out of the more than three million calls received, more than 123,000 were "mental health occurrences" — the force's term for a police interaction with someone suffering from a mental health crisis — the RCMP reported.

That marks a slight increase over 2018, when the RCMP recorded about 118,323 mental health calls and just under three million calls.

Updating de-escalation training

The RCMP's use of force became a topic of national debate after two high-profile interactions were caught on camera this summer. 

In one, an officer in Nunavut was seen slamming the door of his vehicle into an intoxicated man — a move even Lucki has called into question.

In the other, a video showed RCMP officers punching Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam and putting him in a hold outside of a casino after Adam was stopped for driving with expired plates. The officers involved said the chief was resisting arrest. 

All RCMP cadets are trained on an incident management intervention model, which is meant to help them assess when to use verbal de-escalation or force during a situation.

"One of the things that we've been looking at is obviously updating our de-escalation and crisis intervention training and re-certifying that training annually," Lucki told the committee.

"I've been leading a discussion with the police chiefs across the country on our intervention model."

According to recently published RCMP numbers, while there has been a decrease in the number of "hard techniques," which includes takedowns, punches, kicks and the carotid control technique, there has been an increase in the number of officer-involved shooting occurrences over the last decade.

In 2010, there were six non-fatal shootings, while in 2019 there were 24 non-fatal shootings, the RCMP's own statistics showed. There has also been a slight increase in fatal shootings with six in 2010 and nine last year.

She said the force is also looking at making anti-racism training mandatory, although what it would look like is still being developed.

"It will be slightly delayed because we are going to co-develop that anti-racism training with the people that are most impacted by that and getting a lot of input to create that training," she said,

"But in the meantime, we have rolled out cultural and humility training, and all senior managers have taken it. It's rolled out to all employees, and it will be mandatory for each and every employee."

No room for racists in policing: Blair

In an attempt to root out racism, the head Mountie said her team is also looking at tweaking the recruitment process.

"We're looking at the way in which we recruit. We want to make sure that we are, in fact, reflective of the communities that we serve," she said.

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair told the committee there is no room for racists in law enforcement. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

"We are going to be testing for those types of behaviours that could negatively impact their interactions."

The commissioner's comments come after Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde called on her to resign after she defended the RCMP's response to the ongoing dispute between Mi'kmaw lobster harvesters and non-Indigenous commercial fishers in Nova Scotia.

Under his own round of questioning, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair spoke about the importance of ridding police ranks of racists. 

"There's absolutely no place in policing, in law enforcement or in any element of public service for racists and white supremacists and anti-Semites and Islamophobia, and I think that we have a responsibility to purge those influences and those individuals from the public service and most certainly from policing," he said while answering a question from Green MP Elizabeth May if he would take a systematic look at white supremacy within federal policing.

"I will tell you that I believe that the overwhelming majority of police officers do their job with integrity and professionalism and a very sincere respect for all of the people in Canada. But but we also know that ideologically motivated extremism, white supremacy is unfortunately tragically pervasive in certain elements of our society."