The Case of the Missing 100 Police Officers…

The RCMP in almost every field of endeavour for the last several years has been beaten up, the badge tarnished; the criticisms coming fast and furious, sometimes unfair, but more than often deserved.

They, meaning the management of the RCMP,  have been displaying a lack of operational understanding, often proving themselves to be ineffectual in times of crisis or at critical investigational junctures. This has been in combination with an embarrassing lack of leadership in terms of managing their own personnel.

The RCMP’s inability to solve crimes, their inability to bring terrorists to successful trial conclusions, their inability to defend Parliament hill,  and their inability to appreciate and anticipate sexual harassment civil suits costing hundreds of millions of dollars, have left this once proud organization, this policing icon to the world in shambles. Piece by piece it is being exposed and stomped on, while being watched over and supervised by ineffectual governments.

The current group of managers extoll the qualities of political correctness, strive at being inclusive; they are not known for principled steadfastness, successful investigations or timely intelligence gathering.

The RCMP does not operate in a vacuum. If internal ineptness is not enough they are also being hampered and hindered on several fronts, whether it is the judiciary and the Jordan rule, prosecution services hiding behind “substantial likelihood of conviction”, or a simple lack of resources and an absence of  human relations policies.

The incestuous world of RCMP upper management is now being governed by a new leader, one known apparently for her inclusiveness, and as recently announced her willingness to go along with the mandate of the Liberal government. She has effectively declared herself a follower, not a hoped for leader.

Present day officers have been suffering for years from a flawed promotional and staffing system, an unsupportive  management and an infusion of political correctness that has left this organization confused, struggling with 21st century issues, and in need of a complete re-build.

Many wonder how the RCMP has lost its way in such a profound manner?

The RCMP is being buffeted by wave after wave of 21st century standards and policies being forced upon a 20th century stultified organization. Nowhere is this more evident than at their flagship for operational policing in Canada, the Surrey detachment of the RCMP, its largest operational Detachment.

Located at 14355 57th Ave., in Surrey, British Columbia, its city sculpted flowered entrance belies a troubled organization. Behind this somewhat imposing concrete bunker style building the problems battering the RCMP play themselves out on a daily basis.

As any quantitative researcher will tell you, numbers matter, and an examination of the statistics coming out of this office are enlightening. (After a year long wait, an Access to Information request was recently received.)  Questions have been asked about the makeup of the detachment, the deployment of resources to see what could be found out from this rather secretive group. It is believed that Surrey is an example of what is going wrong within the RCMP in terms of its operational capabilities.

First: the population of Surrey has been growing.  In 2006, the population of Surrey was at 394,080; in 2016 the population was 530,443 an increase of 34% in those 10 years. So you may assume that there must have been a requisite change or increase in the number of occurrences or operational files generated by the RCMP just based on the increase in population? More people, more problems? (Most policing agencies base their requests for further manpower on the numbers, the more people the greater the need for officers, based on a police/per person ratio of anywhere from 1/600 to 1/900 for example)  However, if you look closer you will find a different story.

The actual number of  operational investigational files generated by calls for service went from 162,973 in 2006 to 185,801 in 2016.  That is only a 14% increase. How can this be explained?

One theory is that the reporting of actual crime has dropped. Businesses in Whalley for example, which have been broken into a number of times simply are not reporting them anymore, keeping the numbers at an artificial low. Difficult to measure for sure, but the anecdotal evidence is strong.

It is also possible that the makeup of the population is changing;  is Surrey becoming a wealthier suburb of Vancouver? Is the criminal element shifting further east? Also possible but not being measured as of yet.

So if the occurrences are not growing, because those numbers show an occurrence rate growing at only 1.5% per year, what about the actual types of crime: comparing the years  2006 with  2015.

                                 *2006                            2015

**Homicide                 11                                 15

Assaults                  4,909                              3464

Robbery                   670                              762

Abduction                144                                 45

Crim. Harassment   1, 708                          1,907

B &E                          4675                              3786

Theft MV                 4,769                              3,291

Total thefts             15,068                           15,262

*All Stats are from the RCMP Web sites. ** One should also note that homicides in Surrey are handled by IHIT, not resources of Surrey Detachment.

These are just a few examples listed on the RCMP Web site. What is striking is that the numbers are pretty similar even though nine years of growth have occurred. The crimes of 2006 are the crimes of 2015. Some went up, some went down, and in the totals: Criminal Code offences per population as measured in 2006 was 113.91; in 2015 that number was 97.74.

The 10 year average was down overall. So if one were to generalize, you would have to lean to the fact that the crime rate has actually decreased during this time period.

So if the investigational files generated has only grown by 14% in terms of actual calls to the police, then should we not expect to find that the Detachment has grown accordingly?  The actual detachment size has grown at a staggering rate, despite the drop in crime and a very meagre growth in investigational calls, and despite cries for more officers.

The number of personnel now working in Surrey Detachment during this time period has grown by f 41.069 % .

The annual budget for the Surrey RCMP has gone to $144,981,000.00 in 2017. This is roughly 45% of the Surrey municipal government’s overall budget.

If we examine just one of the ranks in the building, the Sargeants for instance they have gone from 29 in 2006 to 73 in 2017. In strict pay dollars that amounts to an increase in spending on Sargeants who make a salary of $102,715 (not counting overtime) from $2,978,735 in 2006 to $7,498,195 in 2017.

The number of personnel working in the Detachment in all capacities has grown from 570 in 2006 to 837 in 2017.

There is a general theory in policing, that boots on the ground matter. The “broken window” theory of policing as espoused by the New York Police Department to great effect has become an accepted belief. That if you look after the small crimes, the rest will come naturally.  In looking at the growth in Surrey detachment you would probably assume that the streets of Surrey are heavily policed. A police car and an officer on every corner.

One must bear in mind, that the face of operational policing in any detachment is the uniform personnel. They are the ones that take the calls, patrol the streets, and conduct the  majority of the investigations that are generated day to day. The RCMP management continually call it the “backbone” of the RCMP.

The RCMP does not seem to agree or go along with the “broken window theory”.  Remember the cries for help and the 100 new officers that were being promised in the wake of the murder of middle aged mom, Julie Paskall outside the Newton Wave Pool?  The Surrey RCMP decried the lack of resources but promised all would be solved by an increase of 100 officers. (a perfectly round number and one wonders what formula came up with this)

Unfortunately what they say and do is quite different. For the last number of years and possibly decades, the uniform personnel have been treated as 2nd class citizens, and the RCMP management has taken this opportunity to enhance their plain clothes establishment, increasing the numbers and increasing the promotions, growing the policing empire. Upper management at this Detachment have thoroughly bought into the theory that everyone is a specialist, policing is more sophisticated, more in need of specialized education and investigation to combat the overwhelming problems of policing. They have become more of a Federal government department, fat with oversight, fat with overtime, fat with jobs that seemingly grow more distant from the actual job needs. They have lost sight of the core job of policing a City like Surrey.

All officers start on the streets, in uniform, but after three or four year service, most of the current crop of officers believe that their career path has to mean going to a specialized unit. The demographics of the last twenty years with senior officers leaving in droves, means that officers who once stayed on the road in uniform for 12-15 years have been replaced by officers of  3 or 4 years service. And these junior officers, in this environment feel that they should be promoted earlier and be allowed to go to these specialized units much earlier. The current experience of officers on the road has decreased to a significant and marked degree. With seniority declining, the level of experienced supervision has also declined.

According to our filed Request for Information, in 2014, the total police establishment in Surrey was 703. According to the statistics provided by them,  there were 276 officers assigned to General Duty (uniform) for Surrey Detachment.

Remembering there are 4 Watches, that would mean on paper, 69 officers per watch. Unfortunately the RCMP is being misleading.

In actual fact for the years 2011 to 2017 the numbers on the Watch are actually between 40 and if being generous, 50 officers. So 20 or so officers per Watch, have been taken from the uniform side, and also seconded to specialized units. By simply moving the position numbers to the secondary units.

In 2011, when personally last in Surrey, we had difficulty sometimes putting 35 officers on the road, and were routinely calling in officers on overtime to reach the unwritten “minimum” of 35.

Nothing has changed much since 2011. Patrol officers continue to be swamped, unable to obtain meal breaks, unable to get done their 12 hour shift without an extra two hours of paperwork. They were and continue to be over-worked.

If off for prolonged sick leave, or for maternity leave, there is no replacement member put in their stead.

Meanwhile the Detachment managers have for years have been consumed by growth and the perks and enhancements that come with it. The upper echelon have come up through the plainclothes ranks and have become adept on growing departments, padding the payroll, and increasing the promotions, while on the road the uniform numbers remain virtually unchanged, sometimes at dangerous levels.

The  “plainclothes sections”, rule the ship, taking their coffee breaks, lunch breaks, and throwing in a little time for the gym.  Overtime is selective and plentiful. It is “easy street” in comparison to working in uniform.

These are the two worlds in the RCMP; both revolving in the same police universe, but seemingly unconnected. Pepper spray and tasers on one side,  the laptop on the other side. The specialists are not encumbered by a gun belt with the numerous tools of the day, never tied to a radio demanding attention and attendance. They are sometimes “affectionately” referred to as the “carpet cowboys”. It is only natural that they lose site of, and then can not relate to the uniform officer in Estevan Saskatchewan, or the officer patrolling the King George Hwy in Surrey.

In this same orbit, is the uniform officer; tied to the radio, tied to the need for answering calls for service, tied to 12 hour shifts, infinite court, and infinite reporting.

This era of specialization is a mantra, it has taken hold and this general aggrandizement of the roles and ranks of the operations is now firmly ensconced. The Federal and Provincial governments buy the propaganda put out by policing managers giving credence to the theory that if you repeat something enough times, eventually everyone will come to believe it.

So with this increase in sophistication, the argument will be that they are more successful,  it would mean more prosecutions, more success in the courts? Have  prosecutions in Surrey have increased?

In the Annual Report for the Prosecution Service in British Columbia, in  2014/15 there were 59,447 number of accused persons approved to Court in all of B.C. In 2016/17 there were 63,733, a 6% increase.

In 2014 Professor Curt Taylor Griffiths of the Criminology Department at SFU did a study and found that Surrey had the “lowest crime clearance rates” in the Lower Mainland. Also, remember that this was the time that Surrey Detachment was asking and got “100 more officers”.

So clearly all this increased specialization, this increase in manpower, this increase in all these tactical units has not led to a great increase in prosecutions.

So where are those 100 officers that was going to be a solution to all the shootings and the increased crime around Newton.?  They arrived but you can’t see them.

This disappearing magic act is easily explained.  The officers who arrived quickly became absorbed in the operational monolith.  The uniform officers already on the road took this time to apply for and get assigned to plainclothes, to be replaced by these brand new officers. So the detachment numbers increased, not the uniform officers on the road.

The numbers grew inside the building, not on the outside which was the public’s expectation.  There was no increase in the number of “boots on the ground”, which was what was being promised. The taxpayers were duped. More “carpet cowboys” were created, maybe a new Sgt position.

So in this age of declining violent crime, (in 2016 it dropped 16%, in 2017 it dropped an additional 8%) how is that this detachment continues to grow, expand its promotions, expand its core base, and add to the increasing cost of policing in Surrey? How is it that the actual police presence on the road is static, while the ability to respond for calls for service remains virtually the same over the last several years, and the experience on the road is dwindling as is the supervision?

The Surrey Detachment flagship is a reflection of the policing times we find ourselves, and a reflection of the “new” management. Specialization, talking of diversity and inclusiveness, telling the governments of the day what they want to hear.

Uniform policing in the RCMP, its very core, is dying a slow death while bureaucracy rules. Growth of the mandate, growth of the secondary roles is more glamorous, more in keeping with a certain level of sophistication. It is safer, less in the public eye, less risk for a risk averse management group.

Meanwhile day to day policing is looked down upon, where people get sent if they are in trouble. Day to day policing is un-glamorous, 12 hour shifting, working on holidays, endless report writing, Crown Prosecutions sheets prepped while dog tired, all of which will be wrapped in legal arguments to be played out in courts for days on end.

Couple an inability to deliver a core service with thousands of claims of sexual harassment, internal investigations that would make many blush, unionization on the horizon, and unbridled self-promotion and you get a sense of further impending chaos with little or no sense of an ending.  To the old observers and former participants it is futile, doomed to an awkward death.

To the few that hang on; the few that continue to work hard, continue to put the job ahead of their life and their family, they just shake their heads. They keep forging ahead, hoping that someone will care— one of these days.

As to those 100 officers that were received to solve the street policing problem in Newton; don’t look for them on the street. They haven’t actually disappeared. Go down to the detachment and peer in the windows facing 144th Street. That’s where they are, through the tinted glass.

And when you next see four police cars of baby faced officers, sitting in the Tim Hortons at 2 in the morning on Fraser Hwy, having their break of coffee and cruellers, don’t think ill of them. They are not being supported and it is probably their first break in a 12 hour shift. During their fitful sleeps between day and night shifts, sugar plum fairies are not dancing in their heads, they are dreaming of being able to one day sit behind those windows on 144th St. They want to be part of the new policing.

(In terms of full disclosureSurrey Detachment  it was this writer’s home for 10 years. It is my alma mater, and I look back with fondness of my years spent there. I worked in uniform and in plainclothes)

Photo courtesy of Flickr via Commons by FB Some Rights Reserved

Some follow-up

In recent days, Surrey has once again been hit with a string of shootings, one case of particular concern, as the victim appears to be completely innocent; a case of mistaken identity. (This is not the first case of mistaken identity in Surrey over the years as a point of fact). The media are re-acting on talk shows and on television to this latest outpouring of violence.

The RCMP management team in Surrey led by Dwayne MacDonald have provided the expected reaction.  In a rehearsed statement talking about his sadness and outrage and promising to bring the perpetrators to justice.  And in a cute deflection move, released pics of some gangsters who have been shot at recently, and telling the public to avoid hanging around them. Really? He also reiterates how the Surrey Detachment Gang Enforcement Team is “working” with CFSEU. Again, the specialized units who target these individuals over long periods of time is going to solve this, the theme being just trust us we are working hard. He assures everyone that they are “making headway” and they are “strategically targeting” the wrong doers and of course he is asking for “the community to join us in this effort”

There are rumblings developing and judging by the hits on this blog from police and politicians, some people are now seeing the problem of being of one of deployment rather than resources. Current Surrey mayor candidate Tom Gill is calling for a re-assessing the RCMP contract in terms of how the resources are deployed. There have been a call for a “beat program”.  There are even a few persons calling for a regional or city force to replace the RCMP.

The RCMP, if they do not adapt and change are going to go down. MacDonald’s platitudes despite his best intentions are tired, well-worn and of little value. Put away the talk of community “initiatives”, “strategies”, “targeting”, “community effort”, “youth initiatives” and “more resources”.  My advice, get back to the core of policing , put officers on the street. It really is not complicated.

 

 

22 thoughts on “The Case of the Missing 100 Police Officers…

  1. wonderfully researched and scathing article Pete.  finally there is someone crying in the wiliderness that might be llstened to.  there is certainly no one else laying things out the way you do.  i hope the article gets national coverage.  as i mentioned in my book “no easy ride” unless someone in government starts to seriously examine the structure and operation of the Force, it is going over the cliff.  we are witnessing an impending disaster and it is akin to spectators driving by a fatal mva.  they are watching it happen and can or will do nothing.  after my father, myself and now my son invested our lifes work in this beloved organization, we sit helplessly by.  your revelations have the potential to be a light shining on deep structural problems. ian parsons

    Sent from my Galaxy Tab® E

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You got it right i was a member of surrey from ‘89 to ‘99. The community policing opened several new police departments with no more members to serve them. What a waste. People come to the community police station told to phone the detachment. Wow

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    1. I’m assuming this is THE Pete Cross from up north from my earlier service?

      I am quite impressed by your article Pete. It’s one of the most encompassing articles that I’ve ever read on the subject. Well done.

      I’ve sent it onto my email list to some of my “old school” pals, as well as some of my very good buddies in the Vancouver PD and law enforcement contacts in the USA that I’m still in daily contact with. In fact I got your article from a retired VPD member.

      The eventual demise of the RCMP has been written in stone for decades now. They are encouraging the development of Federal resources, because that is where the RCMP is headed.

      The general public is eventually going to catch on, and will demand better service, and the RCMP may be replaced by a provincial force, or municipal forces, and the RCMP will become Canada’s equivalent of the FBI. That will come at a great cost, but that is a subject for another day.

      I may be giving senior management too much credit here, but I suspect they are allowing things to drag down to the point where the public will demand that the RCMP be replaced.

      General Duty and Traffic policing aren’t sexy. They do however generate the most complaints about our members from the general public and of course the RCMP doesn’t like bad publicity.

      I agree wholeheartedly with your article Pete. Folks, if you have read Pete’s article, don’t kill the messenger. He is absolutely on target, but these observations and sentiments have been voiced in one way or another over the last three decades.

      Political correctness, entitlement and compulsive bean counting are killing the RCMP.

      Unfortunately it’s already too late…the RCMP is dying from a death of a thousand cuts.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So very true. The model of policing where you have a beat cop in every area of the town or city. Where you knew every officer by name, needs to come back. They (Management) needs to relook at that model of policing and incorporate it again. Awesome article.

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  3. Pete, I really enjoy reading your blog. Your stories are very moving and the post about your Mom was really powerful.

    I think most Members would agree with your view that General Duty is the where the rubber meets the road, but I would like to mention that the part of the post where you explain that Plainclothes never miss a coffee break while kind of funny isn’t always the reality.

    I think it might be more helpful to mention a culture of “management” rather than one of “leadership”. There is such a persistent fear of conflict that “managers” don’t hold people accountable for mistakes, or even for misusing sick leave. That can’t all be blamed on Officers. NCO’s in the force need to set an example and support each other, but instead of respecting each other, it seems that a promotional system focused on individual achievement rather than teamwork and dedication to duty rules the day.

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  4. Hi Pete. You have summed up so many of the issues facing front line officers. I spent a short time in neighbouring Langley and found the structure much the same. Uniform general duty members scramble to calls, struggle to finish paperwork, put in hours of unpaid overtime, all for a chance at a plainclothes section. Those who want to stay in uniform are considered either not ambitious or lazy.

    All over the force, the upper management numbers continue to swell, with new senior NCO and officer layers being added all the time. If, by some crazy chance, general duty members had more support, such as double cars, proper breaks, supervisors whose job was to ensure members have time to complete work on shift, etc, there would be a great opportunity to be more visible in the community, and possibly make a real difference in the criminal activity. Of course the risk as you know is more eyes watching means more crime seen and caught, leading to a skew of the statistics.

    The other concern is that the cost of policing increases between 2006 and 2016 are partly based on the incredible out of control costs associated with implementing PRIME, the BC Police Chiefs choice of data management system. It has become the most expensive part of this system, and one which was forced on the RCMP in BC. It means that the support jobs have had to increase exponentially, much more than ever projected.

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  5. Surrey recently replaced all its civilian readers – people who do quality control on reports – with 12 sergeants. The civilian readers were almost all retired police officers with decades of experience. They were paid about 60% of what a sergeant is paid.
    I can’t think of any better illustration of how out of touch RCMP management is.

    Like

  6. This article provides even more support for the justification of us becoming even more responsible for our own safety.

    The Canadian Court system has become a pathetic politically correct joke which few Canadians respect. It ceased to be a “justice” system long ago and has morphed into a Liberal “legal” system.

    Overworked street cops make mistakes and criminals walk free. When minutes count, the police are only hours away.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Another great article Pete, keep up the great work. So true and on the backs of some of us who just wanted to make a difference and help some people. Take care bud.

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    1. excellent – we need more members like you, who have the capability of able research and expression, to bring such matters to the forefront – I did a variety of land duties for 12 yrs, beginning in the upper fifties, left the Force at 28yrs as I was too old to be accepted into Air Division – diverted to helicopters and returned to the Force five years later as an operational helicopter pilot, putting my twelve yrs previous service to good use when called to assist the ‘boys in the field’, taking the first ship into BC, then to Nfld. – first ship to New Brunswick, and finally flew out of Edmonton briefly before retiring – your article and support of the one time proud Force and its accomplishments, well received – thanks,
      Tom K. Vickers S/Sgt Rtd (24 yrs)
      served 33 yrs – 21 in Air Svcs. Helicopters

      Like

  8. Right on Pete.
    As a member I saw this coming as far back as the early 70’s. Too many highly educated members getting promoted and too few prairie farm boys who know how to work and interact with people.
    Leadership has, unfortunately, failed a once great force. We had slackers but leadership dealt with that. Not anymore as the slackers are in power.
    Ken

    Like

  9. I was stationed in Surrey in the 70s, and Pete you have hit the nail on the head!!
    My last experience with Surrey Personnel was when I called from Saskatchewan to report 3 men were hauling furniture out of my vacant rental house. I was informed the next day the men were caught but because they said the fence was already smashed along with the front door,,, they did not break in !!
    They were allowed to take all the furniture they had already hauled out, and released !!
    I was informed I could not even have the names of the culperts and the case was closed !!
    Attempts to follow up with senior personnel were dismissed !!
    Any wonder why the crimes are not being reported !!

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  10. You claim that political correctness is an issue, but fail to provide examples or evidence. Perhaps an addendum could help illustrate your point in this regard.

    Your main point seems to be that there should be more General Duty members, but the evidence for this is thin to non-existent. File loads are dropping and crime is evolving. GD members won’t solve Internet frauds, catch people exploiting children online, or investigate money laundering in the markets. Times change and the RCMP must also adapt. Part of adapting is recognizing that diversity is a strength, not a weakness.

    I’ll close by pointing out that the harassment scandals plaguing the RCMP are the fault of all of the members who participated and those who stood by and watched. Generations of members failed to treat their coworkers with respect and the current membership continues to pay the price, both in the damage to their reputations and the difficulty in recruiting good people to join the Force.

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    1. Hi, Thanks for your note. I often learn more from the dissenters than those in agreement. That being said, the statistics speak for themselves. Check what the most reported crimes are, which have increased in the number of years. You will find property crime, assaults, robberies, sexual assaults etc still lead the list by a long measure. The farmers of Saskatchewan for example would not see internet fraud as an operational priority compared to property crime. There complaint is that no one comes. The businesses of Whalley who have stopped reporting a lot of crime would not agree that money laundering is the operational priority. In my view, you have to do the core policing well, they are the base of your organization.
      I do not doubt that the internet has caused new avenues of investigation that no one anticipated. That being said, you don’t abandon the core, you have to expand your personnel. You don’t rob from GD to specialized units.
      I don’t think I said that diversity was a weakness, what I was arguing was that diversity, for diversity sake alone accomplishes nothing.
      By the way the RCMP is proving itself woefully inadequate in terms of internet crime, money laundering etc. Just read the latest report from ex-rcmp Peter German.
      I agree with you that generations of members turned their backs on inappropriate behaviour and there is a price being paid. But I hold management responsible, not the individual members
      Have a great day and thanks for reading.
      (p.s. for the next blog I will list some examples of political correctness and its changing of the operational decision making)
      Pete

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I served in Surrey Det. for a total of 13 yrs from 63 to 79, and I agree with the points expressed. Most of my time in Surrey was with GD. I led a GD based burglary unit for about 3 yrs, because the specialized GIS burglary was solving nothing.. All our intel on what was happening at the street level came from GDmembers. WE were very successful and our clearance rate soared . AS a result we were disbanded and my excellent team members scattered to specialized units..A great article Pete… Thanks..

        Like

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