WESTLOCK – Despite the possibility of being short three officers by the start of the fall, Westlock’s top cop said there’s no cause for alarm.
At the Town of Westlock’s July 12 council meeting, Westlock RCMP Staff Sgt. Al Baird stated that while the detachment is currently close to its full complement, which includes himself, two corporals and nine constables, three officers will be transferring out in the next two months.
Baird noted they’re currently short one constable, but have a new cadet en route who’ll start at the beginning of August. Meanwhile, another constable is slated to transfer out July 28, while two more are leaving town over the next two months.
And while the one cadet that’s slated to fill the second vacancy will be here in October, Baird said no one else has been named yet to replace the other two. The detachment is also on track to have four public servants — the fourth will be starting in the next little while, Baird told councillors.
“I’ve engaged our staffing people, so they’re aware. Every now and again a detachment can run short — I know Barrhead was running short for a while and now they’re starting to catch up. You’re not always flush. We’ve been fortunate since I’ve been here that we have been and have actually had an extra body,” said Baird in a July 14 interview.
“We could be short for a while and hopefully it’s not a long while. I don’t think it’s a concern, not yet.”
Baird said the majority of the replacements they’ve received in his time in Westlock have been straight from Depot, although Cpl. Leigh Drinkwater recently transferred in and has a wealth of experience in rural detachments.
“We’re fortunate that all our supervisors here are experienced in rural policing and we’re able to guide the junior members when they come in. Certainly it’s nice to get an experienced person moving in, but lately our members have been replaced by cadets and there’s a lot of detachments that are like that. The thing is that when people get more experience they start looking at other career aspirations and want to move into a specialized unit, like Major Crimes or border security,” Baird explained.
“There are a lot of competing interests. So when members get two or three years of experience then look at where they want to go and start working towards that, so when a position opens up, away they go. So it works out that the general-duty detachments are basically training grounds, in a sense. They get a good basis of knowledge and then they can continue on. Also, when constables get seven years of service they’re eligible for promotion and they start putting in, so we lose experienced members that way.”
According to a CBC story published earlier this year, the RCMP had 1,280 cadets (40 troops, each made up of 32 Mounties-in-training) enrolled for the 2019-2020 year. But due to COVID-19, the force temporarily suspended its training program last March and sent 16 troops home before they were able to finish the program in Saskatchewan.
The CBC story goes on to state that according to the RCMP's departmental report (which casts ahead to the 2021 year), they were hoping to graduate about 500 cadets this year.
Baird said it’s his understanding Depot has ramped back up and things are all-but back to normal.
“There’s a lull of four to six months. But it’s my understanding that there aren’t any concerns at Depot. To say that we’re getting the two cadets that shows me things are going ahead there,” he said.