The next wave of RCMP hires may be more likely to wear a red hoodie than a red surge.
The National Police Service is looking to hire more civilian investigators to tackle some of the more complex investigations like cybercrime and money laundering.
“The world has changed and we need to change,” said Sean McGillis, the RCMP’s executive director of federal police resource management.
“We’re probably playing with the organization’s DNA here, but in a good way.”
The change so far has been small. The RCMP initiated a pilot project to bring in citizens with backgrounds in coding, cyber forensics and financial crime and is now moving to make it a sustainable programme.
A spokesperson said the RCMP has hired 14 civilians under the pilot project and aims to hire 24 more in this financial year.
“So at this point our numbers are low, in terms of actually being able to get people through the door,” McGillis said.
“But we’ve had a lot of success in terms of attracting attention. People want to come and be a part of this mission.”
McGillis said he would eventually like to get to the point where the RCMP is hiring 100 civilians per year.
“It would be aggressive, given labor market conditions, but something that I think is worth trying,” he said.
His team is not alone facing the constraints of hiring in the private sector.
Labor market in ‘crisis’ for cyber security experts
Governments can find it very difficult to compete with private sector salaries – and the intense security checks required of anyone working on sensitive government files may also discourage outside workers.
“The labor market in cybersecurity in Canada and globally is in crisis,” said Charles Finlay, executive director of the Rogers CyberSecure Catalyst Program at Toronto Metropolitan University. The program receives funding from the federal government.
“There are hundreds of thousands of open positions in Canada and millions of open positions around the world. So the labor market shortage is extreme. There is basically zero unemployment in the region. The numbers are tough.”
The Communications Security Establishment, which collects and decodes signals intelligence and is also in charge of technology security for the federal government, has said it faces its own challenges in recruiting and retaining cybersecurity experts.
“Are we competing with CSE? Yes. Are we competing with CSIS? Yes. Are we competing with the private sector? Yes, we are all going after the same talent,” McGillis said.
“I think the security and intelligence community does a great job of making sure we’re not stealing from each other. And if we are, it’s in the best interest of all partners, but it’s a challenge.” “
Citizens can become peace officers
The RCMP is trying to tap talent in the private sector and graduate programs and has set up student cooperative programs to tackle cybercrime.
According to the latest Statistics Canada reporting, more than two-fifths of large businesses (250 or more employees) were affected by cybersecurity incidents in 2019. That year, only under 30 percent (50 to 249) of medium-sized businesses. employees) and 18 percent of small businesses were affected.
Introducing new employees to the RCMP’s police science training curriculum is easier than trying to teach serving officers how to code, McGillis said.
Depending on their role, a civilian may also be granted the status of a peace officer. This gives them the power to do what a regular member would do without harming themselves.
“We want them to be on as many integrated and investigative teams as they possibly can,” McGillis said.
“If you ask me what it might look like 15 years from now, you could very easily have a civilian investigator leading an investigation team supplemented by regular members. Who knows?”
Finlay’s school offers a cybersecurity training and certification program with a focus on women, new Canadians, displaced workers, black and indigenous people, and other persons of color. He said that the interest in the area exceeds the number of places available in the programme.
He added that updating what is taught at Canadian Police College together with academia and the private sector could solve the RCMP’s recruitment problem.
“What RCMP is doing in terms of this issue around cybersecurity professionals is not unique to RCMP … but there is an opportunity here that I think RCMP should take advantage of.”
“I think the RCMP is in a position to create a cyber security training program for both uniformed officers and civilians that can deliver RCMP personnel with the skills they need.”
The RCMP’s move to bring in more citizens comes as it struggles to attract and keep regular members. An RCMP spokesperson said its job vacancy rate is around 4.3 percent.
McGillis stressed that the program is not about replacing boot-on-the-ground officers.
“It’s really about moving toward that right expertise. And that doesn’t mean our regular member force doesn’t have it,” he said.
“But when you look at the criminality that we’re dealing with, it’s actually our regular members who are telling us that we need to go out and find people with these skill sets.”
A spokesman for the National Police Federation said the union had no comment “to share at this time”.