An article published by CBC on December 22, 2018, “Short-staffed RCMP look at lifting ban on recruits with criminal records” has understandably raised deep concern and drawn a sharply negative response by RCMP Veterans, the broader police and public safety community and Canadians at large.

Asked to comment on the report, RCMP advised on December 23 that while barriers to recruitment are being looked at, there is no plan to eliminate criminal record checks as part of the recruitment process. Applicants with criminal records will not be considered for recruitment unless they have received a pardon, or their records have been suspended. An applicant’s past behaviour, activities and associations remain directly relevant and are still considered in the context of the Force’s strict hiring standards. In a related email, RCMP spokesperson Dan Brien was quoted by CBC yesterday as saying that “RCMP officers are held to high standards and that applies to those who might seek to join it”.

RCMP’s posture on considering applicants with criminal records who have received a pardon is commonly held with many police services in Canada as reflected within the hiring standards documented on their respective websites including OPP, Toronto Police Service, Halifax Regional Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, Victoria Police Department, Regina Police Service, Ottawa Police Service, etc.

The challenge to recruit high quality candidates as police officers is not unique to the RCMP. Police services across Canada are all striving to recruit candidates that reflect the diversity of the communities that they will be working in. It is a competitive field and the need to fill vacancies created by attrition is ongoing, and in some cases acute. Compensation, benefits, conditions of work are all variables that prospective applicants consider. Employers in every enterprise naturally look critically at their recruitment programs to evaluate if they are successful in attracting the right employee, and seek to make the hiring process as seamless and expedient as possible to avoid losing talented candidates due to administrative barriers that extend the intake timeline and discourage potential applicants. RCMP is no different.

The hiring standards for police officers need to remain of the highest calibre to safeguard public safety and to give Canadians confidence that the officers who will answer their calls for assistance have the character, skill and integrity to respond responsibly and reliably to their needs. RCMP has reaffirmed that while the assessment of their recruiting process will remain ongoing to accommodate faster engagement of qualified candidates, integrity will always be a critical and essential component for successful candidates.

Steve Walker
RCMP Veterans’ Association