By Casey MacLeod
One of Canada’s most celebrated and beloved symbols is the red coated RCMP officer.
“There’s a lot of national pride associated with the RCMP,” said applicant Jeff Harris, 23. However that pride doesn’t seem to be translating into the necessary recruitment numbers.
On March 20, the RCMP held their first ever Recruiting Open House. The open house had representatives from recruiting as well as 20 specialized police units.
“In our entire history we’ve never had to go pro-active in order to keep that volume of people coming to the doors,” said recruiting officer Corporal Mike Herchuk. According to Herchuk there is a “massive need not only in this province but across the nation.”
Herchuk said while people are still coming to the door, the competition for recruits has increased. The Canadian Military as well as municipal and provincial police forces are drawing from the same demographic as the RCMP. And they are all short on human resources.
In Saskatchewan alone the RCMP needs 160 applicants to successfully go through depot and rotate into the filed within the next fiscal year. But depot isn’t just producing officers for Saskatchewan. Recruits from all over the country come to Regina to be trained as an RCMP officer.
Nationally the need is 2000 applicants a year for the next three or four years.
Herchuk explained that the problem is increased by the booming economy in Alberta and the increasingly hot Saskatchewan market. Jobs out west are appealing to people of all ages but especially to those of the younger generation.
“People are sitting there and they’re taking a look at the opportunity to make some very good money in a very short term, versus potentially a 20 or 25 year career,” said Herchuk. “All too often people are going for the quick buck.”
“There is enough information out there, it just doesn’t appeal to twenty-something year olds – they’re just interested in getting rich quick,” agreed potential recruit Harris. He added that being a police officer appears to be more dangerous these days: “There weren’t random people walking around with guns 10 or 20 years ago.”
Herchuk said the RCMP is now playing catch-up with the military which has been utilizing TV and radio ads for some time.
“We are doing radio now, we have some TV ads, and last year we ran movie ads in 237 theatres across Canada. Just getting the message out there that we’re hiring.”
The recruitment campaign also uses billboards, bus ads and the RCMP website.
Another part of the problem is that many people take themselves out of the process early on for unnecessary reasons.
“Too many people filter themselves out,” said Herchuk. The RCMP is more concerned with your honesty and integrity than with past indiscretions, he said. All recruits are subjected to a polygraph test near the end of the process, after passing written, physical, medical, dental, and vision tests. Prior to this they fill out a questionnaire with 180 questions. The questionnaire touches on “everything from traffic violations through to hunting at night right through to drug abuse.”
“This is one of those opportunities where you can be very honest about your behaviour and your background because we are going to check into it, we are going to find out anyway,” Herchuk warned. The problem is not that you have a speeding ticket or that you’ve used drugs, it’s when you “make no mention of it all the way along and then we get to the poly and we see there’s supposedly no drug use and then all of a sudden…spike.”
Herchuk said people don’t seem to realize the diverse and interesting career the RCMP can provide.
“We currently have about 750 detachments across the entire country; we have police officers in most of the Canadian embassies around the world.” As if that weren’t enough there are 152 different sections from war crimes to emergency services to the bomb squad.
“Pick a crime - we have a section for it,” Herchuk said.
For Harris the reason to join the RCMP is an obvious one.
“I want to help people, something I’ve always been interested in,’ he said. “There’s a certain level of respect you get when you’re an RCMP officer…it’s a Canadian thing.”
Photo by Casey MacLeod