Officials with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Justice were as shocked as anyone to learn this week that RCMP vacancy rates are as much as five times higher than officially reported in some parts of the province.
650 CKOM obtained a trove of internal RCMP emails on Wednesday.
Those emails, dated Nov. 3, showed the commander of the police service’s northern district facing 15 per cent of positions sitting empty. Meanwhile, the southern district reported an eight per cent vacancy rate.
Both numbers are much higher than the 3.3 per cent vacancy rate reported at an RCMP news conference on Sept. 29.
Drew Wilby, executive director of corporate affairs with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice, addressed the controversy Thursday on Gormley.
“I would say that those emails took us by surprise, yesterday. And obviously that creates some significant concern for the ministry,” he said.
The province pays 70 per cent of the costs for 924 officer positions under its rural policing contract with RCMP. Wilby said that includes paying for spots that might be vacant for short-term reasons such as illness or injury.
Wilby said the province isn’t billed for longer-term vacancies, like parental leave. But even so, he said there is an expectation RCMP has enough staff to ensure public safety.
“If we are seeing that there’s these acute openings that come up, they’re leaving detachments understaffed potentially, we need to get a clear sense of what that’s all about,” he said.
Wilby said he expected RCMP staffing levels to be part of the focus for a special task force of MLAs recently appointed by Premier Brad Wall. He said the Ministry of Justice would be having its own parallel discussions with RCMP as well.