A public safety survey was recently conducted in the province by the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) related to the RCMP shortage of officers. President Kam Blight explains its purpose.
"It was basically a follow up to what we've heard as the executive team of myself and the two vice presidents, Brad Saluk and Chris Ewen, and our executive director Denys Volkov as we toured around and visited all the municipalities in Manitoba," says Blight. "One common theme that we've heard from just about every single municipality that we visit is concerns over crime. They're concerns in urban centres and rural centres. So, this survey that we did is very, very basic to a certain extent, but it's also very telling. It just kind of confirms everything that we've heard when we're out visiting our municipal partners."
He notes the municipalities of Manitoba have been calling for better supports for the RCMP and an increase in members for quite some time.
"This is just a message we're going to continue to bring forward," continues Blight. "We're working on getting a meeting with our federal minister to discuss these concerns. And the bottom line is municipalities need better financial support and need increased RCMP members to fill the vacancies that we have currently across our province."
Blight explains AMM municipal members have continued to bring concerns to the organization in regards to the Catch and Release program.
"Not only are municipalities and RCMP detachments short-staffed due to vacancies and soft vacancies, such as maternity leaves which can be up to 18 months, but a lot of the members are also spending a lot of time doing up paperwork in their offices dealing with repeat offenders," notes Blight. "This is because the law system and the court systems are not supporting the arrests that are being made by the RCMP members. Therefore, a lot of these individuals are being arrested and released basically within a day or so, and they're right back out there committing the exact same crime."
He says that municipalities are gathering their voices through AMM to call on the federal and provincial governments to enforce the laws that are in place. Blight notes they need to make sure that there are consequences for these unlawful actions.
"These individuals are committing these crimes," says Blight. "They know exactly what they're doing and what is right and what is wrong, and that it's an unlawful activity that they're doing that they're continuing to do. We need to make sure we support our RCMP when they're going out risking their lives and capturing these individuals, the government must make sure that there are some consequences to these actions as a deterrent so that these individuals do not continue to commit these crimes."
Blight explains ways in which this can be ensured is to have our RCMP patrolling the streets and the roads, and apprehending individuals, instead of there doing repeat paperwork for repeat offenders.
"The bottom line is we're asking for increased financial support to municipalities to help offset the rising costs of policing," adds Blight. "Also, we're asking for increased resources for the RCMP so that they can continue to do their jobs and have boots on the ground, and policing our streets and our rural roads not sitting in the offices at all times doing paperwork for these repeat offenders."
Portage la Prairie RCMP Inspector Paul Peddle says he's been a police officer for almost 21 years, and in every community that he's been, he's seen police resources spent on dealing with the same people over and over.
"About 98 to 99 per cent of our people are tremendous, good, hardworking, honest people that care about the community," says Peddle. "A lot of the times, we're dealing with the one per cent of the people over and over again. That's something that we definitely want to work together with the community to deter."