RCMP short on de-escalating skills: Report
A new report by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association raises concerns about RCMP officers’ ability to de-escalate tense situations and police treatment of aboriginal people in northern B.C.
The report, Small Town Justice, was created following 16 workshops in 14 communities across northern and rural B.C. in August 2010. Approximately 300 people took part in the workshops, including 28 in Prince George.
“In many centres an absence of de-escalation skills among officers, particularly among younger recruits, was noted,” the report says. “... people listed specific and personal experiences where they felt the attitude of the attending officer or officers escalated the tension and danger in a situation for officers and those interacting with them.”
In Prince George one of the participants, who identified himself being a peace officer with over 20 years with experience in corrections, said he’s seen a change in attitude by the RCMP.
“And something I’ve noticed, I think, over the last 40 years is deterioration, a swing away from where the RCMP are here to protect and serve the population,” he said. “It seems more that they are more in a confrontational position where they seem to be an, ‘us against them.’ They talk very arrogantly towards people. They have few de-escalation skills.”
Respondents in Merritt, Williams Lake, Anahim Lake, Fort St. John, Smithers, Dawson Creek, Campbell River and Terrace made similar comments.
Respondents in Terrace alleged serious concerns with RCMP treatment of aboriginal people. In communities including Williams Lake, Anahim Lake and Smithers aboriginal participants complained of racial profiling of aboriginal people.
In multiple communities, respondents called for more foot and bicycle patrols, improved holding cells, additional aboriginal consultation and participation in policing, and better handling of public drunkenness.
In Prince George, respondents identified many positive things about the RCMP including the Prince George Community Policing Program, participation in youth programs, volunteer work with multiple organizations and general good conduct by officers.
“More than once, having met young police officers in their first year of duty, I’ve thought the country as a whole must be doing something right raising these young people who want to go into polic(ing) and continue its best traditions,” one respondent said. “I think there are lots of good officers in this town.”
However, participants also cited a lack of trust, lack of foot patrols at night, officers being too quick to arrest someone for being drunk in public and concerns about how complaints are handled.
“You can have all these rights, but what good are they if they don’t respect them?” one respondent said. “They need audio or video monitoring when they’re questioning someone.”
The report doesn’t make any recommendations, except that the report be considered by RCMP and policy makers.
Prince George RCMP spokesman Cpl. Craig Douglass said an advance copy of the report was provided to RCMP ‘E’ Division headquarters in Vancouver as well as to individual detachments.
“We are aware of it and it’s something that we are looking at,” Douglass said. “I do know it’s with ‘E’ Division and they are looking specifically at Prince George.”
Douglass said he could not comment further until the provincial review has been completed.
A spokesperson for RCMP ‘E’ Division could not be reached as of press time.