06/07/2012 02:13 EDT | Updated 08/07/2012 05:12 EDT

350 RCMP jobs could go to civilians

The RCMP is reviewing who does what within its ranks to see if some jobs could be filled by civilians instead of officers.

The police force is looking at whether the right people are in the right positions and if highly trained, gun-toting police officers should be in administrative jobs such as human resources and auditing. The review could result in senior officers going back to the frontline.

CBC's Alison Crawford reported that the review is called "civilianization," and that up to 350 jobs could be on the line.

"The criteria includes, does the position require a badge and a gun to do this?" Chief Supt. Garry Jay said. He's overseeing the process and said affected officers will be given a choice.

"Do they see themselves going back to doing frontline policing or do they see another role for themselves?" he said.

Those who want to continue in their jobs may be asked to retire and reapply for their old jobs as civilians, according to Jay, who admitted his own job may be at risk.

The civilianization process could save as much as $10 million per year and would help the force with recent federal budget cuts. Unlike sworn officers, civil servants don't get moved across the country every few years, they don't require the same level of training and recertification, and some positions are paid far less.

A greater emphasis on the core duty of policing has become a mantra for the RCMP under Commissioner Bob Paulson.

'Civilianization' may increase costs

But shifting jobs to civilians doesn't always save money, warned Curt Griffiths, co-ordinator of the police studies program at Simon Fraser University.

"Civilianizing those positions may not only not save you money, but it may also cost you more to go out on the open market and recruit and retain that expertise," he said. Griffiths helped the Vancouver Police Department with a civilianization project.

He said careful decisions need to be made because of the special expertise required in some jobs.

Staff Sgt. Abe Townsend, a representative with the RCMP's staff relations program, is concerned about the review.

"Overall, there will be fewer positions for sworn members to occupy, which may translate into, down the road, fewer sworn members available to be able to react to national emergencies," he said.

RCMP officers should start hearing about the status of their jobs as early as the end of June or early July. The review is expected to affect mainly senior officers.