March 7 2022:
In a virtual press conference earlier this morning, leading public safety academic Dr. Rosemary Ricciardelli released findings from her report: ‘The Mental Health and Well-being of Detachment Services Assistants in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police: A Qualitative Investigation.’ The report highlights the need for some crucial workplace improvements for hundreds of the RCMP’s Detachment Services Assistants, mostly women, across Canada.
Detachment Services Assistants serve as the first point of contact in every RCMP detachment across the country. They provide key operational support to the RCMP when it comes to responding to emergencies, conducting criminal background checks, supporting investigations, overseing offenders on release, as well as the maintenance of crucial RCMP databases.
The report highlights their particular challenges as predominantly female workers in detachments of all sizes, including those in remote and rural locations, and sought to better understand the risk of violence and occupational stress injury.
12 key recommendations were identified by researchers to improve the mental health and efficacy of DSAs working in the RCMP, including some short term ones:
- the installation of bullet proof glass at their workspaces;
- mandatory inclusion of DSAs in critical incident debriefs;
- the development and implementation of comprehensive training for DSAs across the country;
- access to mental health supports that better reflects the needs and experiences of DSAs.
Dr. Rose Ricciardelli, alongside David Neufeld, President of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees (USJE) and Lynette Robinson, USJE Vice President had the opportunity to meet with Commissioner Brenda Lucki prior to the release of the report. The RCMP also encouraged DSAs to participate in the research if they wished to do so. USJE represents thousands of public service employees who work for the RCMP throughout the country.
“Since the inception of this research, USJE has been pleased to have an open and candid dialogue with Commissioner Lucki about how to improve workplace safety and better equip DSAs to excel in their roles. DSAs work in a dynamic, high stress environment providing crucial operational support to Members,” Mr. Neufeld noted.
“Moving forward on the recommendations to ensure DSAs feel safe and supported will make for a better RCMP. We recognize that DSAs are vulnerable to trauma by virtue of how they interface with the public and their role in supporting Members who go out into the field,” Neufeld added. “They are in no way immune.”
Commissioner Brenda Lucki provided this quote: “Detachment Services Assistants provide essential front line service to the Canadian public in communities served by the RCMP from coast to coast to coast. In the performance of their role, DSAs often see individuals on their worst days. The RCMP recognizes the challenges and difficulties experienced by our valued DSAs. We are committed to work with the Union of Safety and Justice Employees with respect to the recommendations identified in this report and we will continue to ensure the health and safety of our DSAs in the critical role they play in our organization. ”
Dr. Rosemary Ricciardelli of Memorial University of Newfoundland, the lead author of the report, sums up her findings: “Detachment Service Assistants are foundational to the functioning and effectiveness of the RCMP. Their needs, risks, and well-being must be recognized and responded to in wholistic ways — including the realities of vicarious or secondary trauma which impact nearly all DSAs.”
USJE plans to continue its dialogue with the RCMP on the implementation of all 12 recommendations in the coming months/years. This report was the first of its kind in Canada to examine the specific roles of DSAs within the RCMP. While historically an exclusively female profession, DSAs positions are now filled by men and women, though women continue to comprise over 80 percent of DSAs.
About Dr. Rosemary Ricciardelli:
Dr. Rosemary [Rose] Ricciardelli, Ph.D., is Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Elected to the Royal Society of Canada, she is also an inaugural member (and the Vice Chair) of the Academic, Research and Clinician Network Advisory Council (ARC NAC), and founding member, of the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT). Her additional affiliations and appointments include: an Associate Scientist at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health, an Affiliate Scientist with Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and a cross appointment with the Fisheries and Marine Institute at Memorial University. She has published over 175 journal articles, 45 chapters and given over 350 presentations and invited talks.