Heavy caseloads, a toxic workplace culture, officer safety and low pay are among the reasons Mounties are choosing to leave the RCMP for new careers at other Canadian police forces.
That's according to Mounties who recently left or are preparing to leave Canada's national police force and who spoke to CBC News.
"I never realized how much fear I had going to calls for service with the RCMP," said one seven-year veteran who left for another agency in Western Canada last October.
CBC News has agreed not to identify any of the men for fear of jeopardizing their employment. Mounties are specifically prohibited from speaking to reporters without permission.
The officer said he started thinking about leaving after three years' service in Alberta, once he became fully aware of, as he put it, a "cut-throat culture" where he felt training, promotions and transfers were awarded based on favouritism.
The ex-Mountie said he then grew anxious responding to calls alone when front line vacancies weren't filled.
"There's a lot of things that my new employer recognizes as a dangerous situation, so they utilize their [emergency response team] to do those jobs, as opposed to ... the RCMP," he told CBC News.
Sgt. Chris Nesbitt oversees recruitment for Calgary Police and said the "vast majority" of experienced hires are Mounties.
"They usually say that their main reason for looking to a municipality is for wellness and lifestyle for them and their family," said Nesbitt.
Experienced recruits are a bonus for any municipal or provincial agency.
"For us specifically, knowing what your powers of arrest are and how to deal you know compassionately and appropriately with people … that sort of liability for a brand new person is taken away with an experienced police officer because they've been there, they've done that," said Nesbitt.
RCMP retention a concern: Commissioner
No one at the RCMP acknowledged or responded to our phone, email and Access to Information requests for data on how many Mounties are turning in their red serge.
However, last month RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told a committee of Senators that he's concerned about employee retention.
Paulson said the force is seeing members leave to go to work for municipal forces, including those in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
"It is a real drain on our existing resources," the commissioner said. "We are always in competition with other police forces."
One former RCMP employee told CBC News little was done to discover why he was moving on to another job.
"Not one person, not even in management, asked me why I was leaving," said one ex-Mountie, who started working for a municipal police force in B.C. last December after four years with the RCMP.
The officer told CBC News his greatest concern was the RCMP's new recruiting standards, which he said are too low. But since he started the new job he's been struck by the positive morale, high visibility of upper management and how specialized units take over anything that's out of the ordinary.
"I'm still in a uniformed unit, I'm on patrol so I'm on the road 90 per cent of the time and paperwork is a lot more efficient and a lot less. And like I said, the morale … everyone's having a good time."
Calgary and the Ontario Provincial Police hire the most Mounties, but refused to disclose how many they've hired.
OPP Sgt. Peter Leon said his agency would not share the information "out of fairness" to the RCMP.
Mounties told CBC News they're also attracted to other forces because they're disappointed with their work tools and equipment. Many said body armour, firearms and vehicles are newer at other police forces.
RCMP members have been especially critical of the slow roll-out of new carbine rifles and hard body armour.
One man who plans on applying for jobs with Vancouver, Calgary or Winnipeg city police by this summer, said that in his eight years on the job he spent roughly $1,500 on work-related gear such as warm-weather clothing.
"You look at Calgary for instance, they're given top of the line gear… stuff we have to buy on our own," said the Mountie currently stationed in Alberta.
"The flashlight they issue us is absolutely abysmal. It's a little twisty flashlight that's really cheap and unsafe to use. Whereas everybody buys their own Fenix brand higher-end tactical flashlight that's necessary for the job."
The former Mountie who left last October said his new patrol rifle has a flashlight mounted on it. Not only that, he said, his new body armour fits him perfectly.
"They size every single member so 100 per cent get custom-made vests," he said.
Pay targeted in recruiting
None of the men interviewed by CBC cited their RCMP salaries as a primary reason for leaving the force.
Yet on average, Mounties at the rank of first-class constable make $20,000 less than colleagues at Calgary, Edmonton or Vancouver police forces.
In its campaign, Edmonton Police Service highlights a number of advantages that resonate with Mounties:
- Overtime is paid.
- Officers can apply to specialized units without relocating cities.
- Officers work as part of a team within the EPS and there is immediate back-up.
- Officers receive all the equipment they need to complete the job.
Mounties have repeatedly told CBC News they are often asked to work overtime, or are not given the choice to work extra hours due to so many vacancies on the front lines.
"It's tailored to any experienced officer from across the country, it's not specifically RCMP at all," said Edmonton Insp. Scott Jones.
With years of operational experience along with basic training at their previous agency, Jones said it's far more cost-efficient to bring in and train another cop.
The campaign caught Paulson's attention last week.
Treasury Board, which manages the federal government's spending, has offered Mounties a 1.25 per cent wage hike every year for four years. As the RCMP remains the only major police force in Canada without a union, Paulson has turned down the offer on their behalf.
The ex-Mountie in B.C. said he wasn't too concerned about his pay at the RCMP but said his former colleagues would welcome a raise.
"Like, that would be the quickest thing to get people to kind of forget about all the other problems in the RCMP."