Red Deer city and rural RCMP detachments say they have a strong contingent of Mounties patrolling streets and don’t have a problem with staffing shortages.
A report in the Victoria Times Colonist last week reported that one in 10 Mountie positions in B.C. sits empty, according to an investigation by the newspaper in February.
The Red Deer rural RCMP detachment in Blackfalds isn’t reporting staffing shortages. It has 18 RCMP members.
Sgt. James Derouin said there’s always a time when, for a few months, there’s a shortage because of transfers.
“As a general rule, we don’t run vacant positions here,” Derouin said.
He figures there are staffing shortages in British Columbia because it has some significantly larger detachments than in Alberta.
Red Deer city RCMP Insp. Warren Dosko said staffing shortages aren’t being experienced at the detachment and in fact, recently the detachment found itself with more people than positions.
“We were actually overstaffed for a little bit,” said Dosko.
The RCMP seek positions through a formal process with the federal government so that those applications get filled.
Dosko said some of these positions may sit vacant for a little while as the officers get transferred out of the city.
Dosko, who became head of the detachment in December, has been working on a model to keep staffing levels up and prevent long-term vacancies.
“We’ve got a tool in place and a strategy where we work with the staffing people to get our positions all filled,” he said.
The 20-year RCMP contract recently reached between Ottawa and the province ensures that municipalities aren’t billed for a position in which a person is off for more than 30 days, Dosko added. The RCMP bills the city for 131 officer positions.
“Sometimes we have a little more or less, but our target is trying to bill for 131 positions,” said Dosko.
According to the 2011 Vital Signs community report on Red Deer, there are 28 per cent fewer police officers than the national average and 17.5 per cent less than the provincial average.
Dosko said this is just one indicator on policing levels.
Red Deer city Coun. Chris Stephan has long questioned whether the RCMP have enough officers on the streets and in his view, they don’t.
A Maclean’s magazine issue in December ranked Red Deer as the fourth most dangerous city in its national crime ranking report.
“Our police per population is way down and we’re one of the most dangerous cities in Canada, regardless whether people want to accept that or not,” Stephan said. “We need the manpower to deal with that.”
Stephan also said that Red Deer appears to be training ground for officers coming out of depot, when really Red Deer needs more experienced officers.