RCMP’s Air One program is “amending” further training after complaints about a helicopter in Cloverdale last weekend.
Police had been conducting late-night training in the area, leading to some locals taking to social media asking what was going on, several complaining about noise.
As it turns out, BC RCMP were doing a new type of training.
It was a “beta project” involving a different type of helicopter that was noisier than the previous aircraft, explained Corporal Curtis Brassington, Chief Tactical Officer for the Lower Mainland’s Air One program.
He noted the RCMP adjusted the altitude of the chopper higher, in an effort to mitigate the noise impact.
“It’s very similar to what we’ve been doing for the past 13 years with marginal levels of complaints,” said Brassington.
“Certainly it’s not our intention or goal to upset people,” he added. “We’ve done everything we can to mitigate the impact to the public and we’ve made even more changes – we sat down yesterday afternoon and had to make changes on the fly.”
Brassington said he read feedback from dozens of people and can appreciate why some were upset.
Although many locals complained about the helicopters, Brassington said he was “also very pleased at the positive response from so many Surrey residents who understand sometimes police work is noisy, sometimes it’s messy.”
Increase in helicopter traffic this past weekend in the Clayton area due to annual training being conducted by @BCRCMP Air Services. They have been made aware of residents’ questions and concerns.
— Surrey RCMP (@SurreyRCMP) January 21, 2019
While Brassington said he was “not at liberty to discuss details (of the amended training) for the security of our job,” he did say RCMP have “adjusted where we were working, how we were working and when we were working. But we still have to meet our training objectives and goals.”
He stressed that police “don’t want to let bad guys know what we’re doing. Then it makes it a whole lot easier to monitor us, figure out our tactics. We’re not going to give that away.”
Brassington noted the training involves members from across the country, and was mandated to the RCMP by the “McNeil report,” which was done in response to the 2014 Moncton shooting that saw three officers killed.
“The Canada Labour Board found RCMP were lacking in training and equipping, so we’re trying to address those shortcomings,” he added. “You’ll never be able to respond to a real call properly and effectively unless you train for it.”
Brassington stressed it was not the RCMP’s intention, or goal, to upset people.
“We’ve done what we can to mitigate it,” he said.
Brassington confirmed that Surrey RCMP weren’t notified ahead of last weekend’s training.
“We’d thought we’d taken enough mitigation steps, so we didn’t find it necessary to notify the local police,” he explained, adding that he “honestly thought people would’ve been used to it.”
Brassington added: “I hope that the adjustments we’ve made address most of the problems.”
Why was the training done in Cloverdale?
“Most of our training happened in the Cloverdale area because it was a very practical area where we do a lot of real police work,” he explained, “so we wanted to train in an environment that was realistic.”
The Langley-based Air One program has been running for 13 years. It serves the Lower Mainland but occasionally the unit is called to incidents further away, such as the recent pipeline protests in B.C.