3 in 4 RCMP members struggling with stress amid pandemic

72 per cent report high levels of work interference with family life

3 in 4 RCMP members struggling with stress amid pandemic
“The results are significant and worrying, but they are in many ways not surprising.”

More than three in four (76 per cent) members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) reported experiencing high levels of job stress during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from the National Police Federation.

And nearly a quarter shared they went through moderate levels of job stress during the same period.

Worse, the pandemic exacerbated the resources shortage that the police force is going through.

A third of constables stated that they have decided not to seek promotion or transfer during the pandemic. This makes proper succession planning a challenge, according to the report.

A quarter of them stated that they had experienced reductions in their work productivity and an increase in absenteeism because of the pandemic due to illness, quarantine, family needs and related stress. And a fifth have coped with increased demands at home by taking more personal days, and/or adjusted their work hours to work more evenings and on weekends.

“The results are significant and worrying, but they are in many ways not surprising,” said Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation. “Our Members have for several years been forced to make-up for significant funding cuts and shortfalls, and they continue to be asked to provide services beyond crime prevention and law enforcement, which is unsustainable. That's why we're calling on the federal government to make the right investments in mental health supports for our Members.”

Previously, Ontario announced it is investing $8.4 million over three years for a new program that will help the police offer appropriate response to calls from individuals experiencing mental health or addictions crisis.

Alberta earlier said it is implementing a new digital tool to improve police interactions when responding to mental health emergencies.

Family life interruptions

Work interfering with family life is also a problem for RCMP members, with 72 per cent reporting high levels of this stressor, according to the survey over 1,000 RCMP members conducted between October and December 2020.

And RCMP members with children are more likely to experience this compared with those who do not have kids of their own.

Parents are much more like to say they have seen a considerable decline in the amount of personal time they have (25 per cent compared with 10 per cent for non-parents), a reduction in their energy levels (37.5 per cent compared with 23.5 per cent for non-parents) and the amount of time they have for sleep each night (25 per cent compared with 15.5 per cent for non-parents).

“A couple of things struck me when we did this analysis. First, the RCMP would not be able to fulfil its mandate if members did not donate their personal time to delivering service to the community - 40 per cent of the officers say they never have an uninterrupted break while at work, and many are called into work when they are on leave,” said Professor Linda Duxbury, of Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business.

“And second, there are costs associated with continuing to expect officers to do more with less, including increased stress levels and a decline in wellbeing, which have become more pronounced during the COVID pandemic.”