With rising concern over Manitoba's high vacancy rate for Mounties, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) explains that numbers are fluid and that they have a course of action to gain recruits and get them on the field sooner.
The RCMP released that the Nation's vacancy rate is 4.3, and as of April 1, 2021, Manitoba's vacancy rate is 6 per cent.
"Well, see this is the thing about numbers," says Tara Seel, Media Relations Officer with Manitoba RCMP. "They're not really higher than previous years. Like, in 2017, our vacancy rate was 5.8 per cent and as of April 1, 2021, the latest numbers given by our national headquarters, the vacancy rate in Manitoba is 6 per cent. So really, there hasn't been that much of an increase and those numbers kind of stay the same and we have to realize that with the nature of our day-to-day operations, any numbers that you use to represent vacancy are fluctuating. It's a snapshot in time and with transfers, promotions, retirements, new recruits, the numbers change all the time."
Seel notes that since it has already been over a year since those numbers were released, they could have changed by now because the vacancy rates are so fluid. She also identifies that there are different types of vacancy rates.
"So, this is talking about a hard vacancy rate, but there's also a soft vacancy rate which isn't accounted for here. So, there's, you know, maternity leave, paternity leave, off duty, sick, those types of vacancies as well that might be filled by one of these people who now has left a hard vacancy position. People are moving around and it's fluid just like any large organization. It's hard to nail that down. There are also what we call blocked positions. For example, if a community has gone down just a little bit in population, they might not meet the threshold for that extra police officer position under the Provincial Police Services Act. So, they might not meet that threshold, but we don't want to eliminate that position because we anticipate that the population swing will probably go up again."
Seel adds that it is easier to leave a position unfilled rather than eliminate it and go through the long process to create it again if the population rises in a community.
"I don't want to dismiss in any way, shape or form the concerns of the communities because there are vacancies and as everyone knows, there have been some recruitment issues because, during COVID, our RCMP Depot was shut down. So, I'm not dismissing those concerns. Those are real and those are valid. Our top priority is always the safety and security of our communities and often the RCMP officers who are working in those communities, live in those communities with their families, so it's a real concern for them too."
When there is concern about the community's safety, the RCMP meets with the Community Leadership or holds an open meeting at a town hall to discuss their concerns and potential plans of action.
The RCMP is working to create a more user-friendly process to register for their recruitment program.
"Online testing, online applications. We've realized that we can use that technology to engage people in a way that maybe we weren't before, but making them come down to write a test in person or to take a polygraph or to attend an information meeting. Now we can do those virtually and reach a large audience. We have a program right now, our Indigenous Pre-Cadet Training program that is really trying to encourage Indigenous people to join into the recruitment process and become an RCMP officer."
Seel says that alongside their regular recruitment strategies, there are other recruitment strategies in development to reach out to diverse populations. She was pleased to share that during a job fair held two weeks ago, the RCMP booth ran out of information pamphlets, indicating that people are starting to show interest once again.
"We're also not blind to the fact that over the past few years policing has become a less appealing job option, with some of the political movements and rhetoric and violence surrounding police rights. But we also are stressing that policing is very much integral to communities. So, we need people to come talk to us and find out what exactly is involved in being a police officer with the RCMP and what that entails."
There are many misconceptions about being an officer. Seel says that people assume they will not be placed in their home province or are expected to move several times. She says that people should talk to them to get the facts and to understand the number of opportunities there are when becoming an RCMP officer.