HARBOUR GRACE, N.L. — Municipal leaders from the Conception Bay North area made a commitment Thursday night, May 31, to do their part in making sure there’s a future in the region for RCMP auxiliary officers.
That commitment was made in response to a persuasive plea from Bay Roberts Sgt. Brent Hillier, who was present at the monthly meeting of the Conception Bay North Joint Council. It was held at the Danny Cleary Harbour Grace Community Centre.
“I’m asking for assistance from all councils and anybody who has input with the schools,” Hillier said. “Within this last month, our auxiliary program got shut down, because they’re trying to determine what sort of tiered system they’re going to put the auxiliary systems in.”
Auxiliary officers are volunteers who typically go out into the community and look after presentations with schools and community groups. In the Trinity-Conception area, these officers have been involved in the D.A.R.E. program for drug awareness and discussed bullying and ATV safety, among other topics.
“These guys are in our schools — they’re hitting our target audiences,” Hillier said, noting too they make active duty officers more approachable for young people. “And they’re not talking about just your ATVs and drinking and driving. They’re doing drug presentations to the kids, anti-bullying, internet safety, relationship safety — anything that’s going to protect these kids.”
According to Hillier, insurance and liability matters are factoring into the current shutdown of the service.
In January of this year, the RCMP’s national office announced it was preparing a new model for RCMP auxiliaries divided into three tiers. Tier one officers would handle public education and community presentations, while tier two members would have peace officer status and be able to assist with traffic controls and disaster assistance, amongst other things. Tier three, the highest level, could involve general duty patrols, scene security and personal searches. New uniforms are also expected.
According to Hillier, 89 per cent of the students in his 11 communities have witnessed a presentation involving auxiliary members. He said they have a direct impact on increasing safety in the community. He specifically attributed a decrease in ATV complaints and cabin break and enters to the work of auxiliary officers.
In response to a request for comment, a spokeswoman for RCMP provincial command indicated the review was prompted by the 2015 shooting of Const. David Wynn and an auxiliary officer, Const. Derek Bond, in Alberta. Wynn was killed in the incident.
“As this work nears completion, and after consultation with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Justice and Public Safety, RCMP NL will soon begin the renewal of the Auxiliary Program,” she told The Compass.
The review itself has focused on the safety of both the public, volunteers and police.
“We appreciate the patience of our volunteers in the Auxiliary Program as we have been working to develop a national program that strikes a balance between safety and operations in a manner that meets the needs of our communities and provides for the valuable contributions of our volunteers,” she wrote. “We expect to communicate soon with these volunteers to plan a meeting to share with them what the program will look like going forward.“
The auxiliary officers serving the Bay Roberts and Harbour Grace detachments are based out of Holyrood.
Hillier said the current shutdown is manageable in light of the work auxiliary members did in local schools over the last few months. However, he said they will need to get back to students this fall.
“The schools love the police,” Hillier said. “These guys are in there, they’re shaking hands with the kids. The kids love them, they’re showing the police cars, and they’re representing us.”
Joint council unanimously passed a motion to write a letter voicing its support for the auxiliary program. Several representatives of individual councils indicated they’ll advise their colleagues to do the same at a local level.