A review of RCMP operations by the Auditor-General found the national policing service is dramatically under-funded and has been forced to make cuts to its operations, with simple services such as fingerprinting and criminal records maintenance strained to their breaking points, the Toronto Star reported
Chief among the problems facing the RCMP is its paperwork backlog which serves as the data hub for all Canadian police forces, serving detectives across the country as an information repository for DNA, forensic and criminal histories. What law enforcement officials typically discover though are out-of-date records that should be updated instantaneously but can take up to three years to change, the Globe and Mail reported
“The estimated time to process a criminal record update is 14 months for English updates and 36 months for French updates,” the new Auditor-General’s report
The Globe and Mail reports the average time a criminal record takes to update is 334 working days, where the goal should be to update records within 24 hours.
Paul Kennedy, a former RCMP complaints commissioner, told the Globe and Mail these chronic problems make the public less safe and make it more likely for the police to overlook warrants for dangerous criminals and clues that could identify sex offenders.
“These are the tools you want to have if you want to have fast, effective policing,” he told the Globe and Mail.
To further complicate the RCMP's situation, as years have passed, their responsibilities have bloated as Parliament has given the mounties additional duties without increasing funding proportionally.
The Auditor-General report suggests the RCMP needs to pare its workload while refocusing its efforts towards what must effectively be determined as their core purpose as a national police force.
“We have to go back and resolve some pretty fundamental questions,” said interim Auditor-General John Wiersema at a news conference. “What services should the RCMP be providing? At what level?”
With their resources stretched thin, the RCMP has been faced with consistent shortfalls in its operational budget.
The Globe and Mail reported the Mounties were forced to strike a five per cent cut across the board to its programs in 2009, while it was forced to cut another 10 per cent to its programs in 2010.
The Auditor-General report states these cuts amounted to nearly $50-million being cut from the Federal and International Operations Directorate, responsible for organized crime investigations, border integrity, drug enforcement and money laundering.
The audit further highlights that the RCMP services expanded too quickly over the years. Without formal agreements setting out what the Mounties should do, for whom and who pays, the force can barely keep up with the demands on its services. In addition, 70 per cent of national services are utilized by police forces other than the RCMP, while it only uses 30 per cent of national services but assumes most of the costs associated with these services.
The report states these costs add up to $527-million a year, straining the RCMP further.
“In order to sustain national police services in the future, agreement needs to be reached with partners on what services are required, and that issues related to governance, accountability and funding need to be addressed,” the RCMP said in a Globe and Mail report.
The Toronto Star reports the RCMP is conducting two studies to identify real costs while looking at alternative delivery methods for national services.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the government will work with the RCMP on an action plan to address the criticisms levied in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the national police service.