RCMP in need of members

by Phil Ambroziak

Numbers are low, but passion is at an all-time high.

This is how Meadow Lake RCMP Staff Sgt. Rod Ens described the atmosphere at the local detachment where – for most of the summer – a staffing shortage has impacted day-to-day operations.

“Our numbers are still low,” Ens explained. “We have nine constables out of 16, so our staffing level is only around 55 per cent.”

Ens attributes part of this to the fact several Meadow Lake officers received new postings this year, but have yet to be replaced. He also feels, however, the shortage of members goes hand-in-hand with current recruitment levels throughout the RCMP as a whole.

“There aren’t tons of people lining up to work for us,” he said. “And, that’s not something unique to Meadow Lake. Detachments across Canada are struggling with the same issue.”

Meanwhile, Ens would not deny the shortage of members has affected the level of service the detachment is able to provide.

“I often compare it to a school,” he noted. “If you take 45 per cent of the teachers out of a school, but tell those remaining to still do the exact same workload, coach every team, teach every subject and continue to meet standards, it would be impossible. We still do our best, but it absolutely does affect what we do.”

Meadow Lake mayor Gary Vidal, who also serves on the city’s police consultative group, understands the difficulty a lack of members presents.

“We appreciate the position he (Ens) has been put in,” Vidal said. “His workload has not changed, but he’s working with fewer staff. Any manager knows how difficult that is.”

However, the mayor said he’s optimistic things will soon change for the positive.

“We’d love to see the numbers back up because it would definitely help us meet significant challenges,” he said.

Ens used both property crime and break-ins as two examples where an increased police presence would be beneficial. Recently, two homes on 5th Street West, as well as PineRidge Ford Theatre in Lions Park were targeted by vandals armed with spray paint. Also, concerns regarding vehicle break-ins made the rounds via social media recently with at least one victim denouncing the government, police, school system and families for not doing enough to discourage miscreant behaviour.

“There’s always areas of ebbs and flows,” Ens said. “If we catch someone doing something in one area, arrest him and have him before the courts, there’s usually someone else who will come along and fill in that void.”

As for how long the local detachment will be short-staffed, Ens said he is uncertain.

“I still believe policing is a rewarding job and we have a special group here right now,” he said. “They’re compassionate, dedicated and they want to do a good job. That doesn’t mean we don’t need more members, but we have people willing to go the extra mile during these tough times.”

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