The National Police Federation (NPF) recently submitted its pre-budget asks for the 2023-2024 year to the provincial government, calling for strategic investments in policing that support Saskatchewan’s growing population and changing public safety needs.
In a recent press release, the NPF said they know the province has made important investments into Saskatchewan’s RCMP, but they believe the Sask. government needs to go further to address the core issues impacting officers by increasing resources for the RCMP to meet both current and future demand.
“Although Saskatchewan’s population has grown considerably over the past fifteen years, the RCMP have remained underfunded across the province and our members are consistently being told to do more with less when they are already overworked, stressed, and not fully resourced,” said Brian Sauvé, President of the National Police Federation. “We believe investments need to be made in the right areas to ensure the proper delivery of policing services.”
In Oct., the Sask. Party’s Throne Speech committed to investing $20 million annually to create a new Sask. Marshals Service, but the NPF said this would only further divert funding from much needed RCMP resources.
“A national Dec. 2022 Pollara Strategic Insights survey found that only 12 per cent of respondents support the creation of the Sask. Marshal Service and nearly three times more respondents (34 per cent) would prefer to use that money to increase RCMP services across the province,” said the release.
“More importantly, our members in Sask. enjoy strong levels of support (73 per cent) for the policing services they provide, which is consistent with national support levels (76 per cent) in RCMP-served communities,” it continued.
“As the province’s public safety needs continue to evolve, we are looking to this next provincial budget to provide our members with the proper resources and equipment to deal with these changes,” said Morgan Buckingham, Director of the National Police Federation Prairie Region.
In response to the NPF’s recommendations, the Government of Saskatchewan said they are continuing to invest in both the RCMP and municipal police services to ensure they have the resources to keep Saskatchewan communities safe.
“Over the past five years, the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety has increased funding to the Saskatchewan RCMP by over $34 million or 20 per cent,” said the province in an email to the Herald.
This includes additional funding provided to the RCMP for the operation of the Warrant Enforcement and Suppression Team (WEST) in Saskatoon, Meadow Lake, and Prince Albert, for a total of $3.2 million annually.
As well, the Ministry has committed to providing $1.6 million annually to fund a new Crime Reduction Unit (CRT) in the Battlefords region. There are currently nine CRT units in eight locations across the province, including two teams in Prince Albert with a mandate to target street gangs, prolific offenders, and respond to urban and rural crime surges.
“Most recently, the Province announced the Saskatchewan Marshals Service (SMS) – a new, “made in Saskatchewan” approach to policing that is meant to be flexible, mobile, and easily deployable across the province,” continued the email. “The investment into the SMS represents an “in addition to” approach, not an “instead of”.”
The provincial government said the Service is designed to address provincial priorities in a more proactive, targeted way. No funds will be diverted away from existing policing services or the RCMP, who will continue to be the police of jurisdiction in the province. They confirmed that part of the Service’s mandate will be to support and enhance RCMP and municipal police operations.
In an interview with the Herald, Buckingham said the Federation appreciates the Saskatchewan Government’s commitment to public safety and the money and resources they’ve dedicated to the different teams and Marshals Service, but what they’re looking for is getting more uniformed cops on the street and in communities.
“From the NPF’s perspective, we do work closely with the RCMP, the RCMP has identified a need for an increase in resources and in administrative support staff, which will get our members out of the office and going to calls, responding to calls, and being visible in the community; doing the job they were hired to do,” Buckingham explained.
“Talking with my counterparts at the RCMP, there’s a higher workload in the north. There’s a higher call volume, higher workload. When they’re short members like they are right now and even shorter if they’re running vacancies, they feel that and the communities feel that,” he said. “It’s generalized across the province, but the north is definitely a priority.”
The NPF is recommending the provincial government make six investments to support current RCMP members and programs.
• $100M over five years to bolster the hiring of 301 regular members
• This includes 138 regular members to supplement First Nations policing resources and 154 regular members assigned to general duty, federal policing, and specialized frontline support staff.
• Provide additional funding to create 205 administrative support positions in RCMP detachments to allow RCMP Members to spend more time in communities.
• Work with the RCMP in Saskatchewan to identify and resolve existing challenges within the current infrastructure before creating additional bureaucracy through new law enforcement entities.
• Invest $2 million to study police service delivery models for rural and remote communities
• In order to build the Saskatchewan RCMP for the future, review ways to offer better services and enhanced community safety for Saskatchewan residents and ensure better mental health and quality of life for RCMP members.