The RCMP is looking for more constables in Hay River.

The request for the required additional funding from the GNWT for such positions is with the government and will be considered in the upcoming budgetary process.

Members of the Hay River RCMP Detachment march in the Canada Day Parade on July 1. NNSL file photo

“I’m looking forward to business plans which are coming up in November,” said Hay River North MLA R.J. Simpson. “That’s where I’ll learn whether or not the department has proposed an increase in staffing in Hay River. And I’m hopeful.”

Simpson said nothing has changed since he asked Justice Minister Louis Sebert about the possibility of additional constables in Hay River in the territorial legislature on Sept. 22.

“The RCMP presented to the GNWT a request and a business case for two additional general duty constables in Hay River,” Simpson said at that time. “Will the department include these positions in next year’s budget?”

Sebert said the Department of Justice is working closely with the RCMP’s G Division to develop a business case to support additional policing resources in Hay River and it is working its way through the GNWT planning process for the 2018-2019 budget.

Sebert said the request “does seem reasonable.”

Simpson told the minister he would take that response as a positive.

Attempts by The Hub to obtain comments from the RCMP about its staffing plans for Hay River have been unsuccessful.

In speaking with The Hub, Simpson said there are indications that Hay River is about to grow.

“We need more police essentially just for the size of the town we might be,” he said.

Mayor Brad Mapes also supports the idea of more RCMP constables for Hay River.

“Definitely we need to have some more officers,” he said. “It’s busier here and the workload that the guys have is too much for them right now.”

Mapes also noted new constables are needed because the town is likely to grow in the near future.

The RCMP has not yet talked to town council about its staffing plans.

In a statement to the legislature on Sept. 22, Simpson noted Hay River is currently allocated seven general duty constables.

However, he noted the NWT has the highest vacancy rate of allocated positions of any province or territory, and each officer is entitled to anywhere between 15 to 20 weeks of annual leave and are required to attend training courses that can last up to two weeks.

“What all this means is that there are times when there are only three general duty constables available to cover all shifts,” he said.

The MLA noted that, on top of that, the RCMP has to perform duties that are handled by sheriffs in most other jurisdictions, such as transporting prisoners to and from Territorial Court, and monitoring them while they are there.

“That means up to six days a month there is one officer who is unable to respond to calls, patrol the community, or assist in investigations,” he said.

Simpson also noted that Hay River is 50 per cent bigger than Fort Smith, yet that community has six positions, compared to Hay River’s seven.

The MLA added that Inuvik has 12 positions, despite the fact that the Hay River detachment fields twice as many calls per constable that result in charges being laid, and each charge means hours of paperwork.

Simpson said the staff shortage impacts public safety and officer safety, and can’t be good for the mental wellbeing of officers being asked to do more than is humanly possible.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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