Supt. Jim McNamara addresses Vernon council Tuesday. Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP are requesting six more officers from City of Vernon. (Roger Knox/Morning Star)

More RCMP officers sought

Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP are requesting six more officers from the City of Vernon

To combat increasing workloads, the Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP are requesting more officers strictly for the City of Vernon.

Supt. Jim McNamara met with city council Tuesday to request six more officers from the city.

“Current and future staffing shortages, changes in crime trends, crime types and significant increases in population contribute to the pressures facing the Vernon detachment in our efforts to provide service to the citizens of Vernon,” said McNamara in a nearly one-hour presentation to council Tuesday morning.

“The reduction of funded officer positions since 2010, and the increasing workloads over the same period, have had a compounding effect on capacity and a corresponding impact on levels of service.

“This situation has had a detrimental impact on officer well-being and fatigue of personnel, further impacting available resources. This demand on available resources contributes to a further decrease in operational capacity during periods of medical and administrative absences.”

The six additional officers would be deployed with four officers assigned to the four General Duty Watches (teams) and two officers assigned to the General Investigation Section (Plainclothes) – one corporal to sex crimes and one constable to the Prolific Offender Unit.

The current limitations on staffing, said McNamara, has also impacted morale and job satisfaction, and could lead to problems attracting veteran police officers from other detachments to Vernon due to concerns about workloads and the inability to maintain a healthy work and life balance.

From 2007 to the first quarter of 2010, the city authorized an RCMP funded strength of 53 officer positions, which was reduced to 50 in 2011, followed by a further drop to 48 in 2014. In 2014, council increased the funded strength back to today’s compliment of 50 positions.

Going from 53 funded positions to 50 is a six per cent reduction, and has led to an increase in the average caseload per officer and impacted the detachment’s ability to respond to a considerable increase in calls for service and Criminal Code activity.

From 2010 to 2016, the Vernon detachment saw a 10.3 per cent increase in calls for service per officer within the city from 328 to 362; a 20.9 per cent increase in Criminal Case offences per officer from 81 to 98; a 10.3 per cent increase in total calls for service – which is any call to the RCMP – from 16,415 to 18,110; and the city’s population rose from 38,548 to 41,671, an 8.1 per cent increase.

McNamara compared Vernon’s policing numbers to nine comparative detachments around the province: Campbell River, Cranbrook, Fort St. John, Kamloops, Kelowna, Mission, Nanaimo, Penticton and Prince George.

The comparative calls for service average among the nine detachments is 291.6 with Vernon sitting well above the average at 362, and the total Criminal Code offence workload per officer in the detachments averages out to 73.6. Vernon is at 98.

Among detachments with populations close to Vernon, which has 50 positions, Mission (39,873 population) has 51 officers, Penticton (33,016) has 45 and Campbell River (33,696) has 43.

The cost for the requested six funded officers is $173,759, plus an additional $8,243 for the corporal position. The total is $1,050,797. Funds include salaries, administration and maintenance costs.

“The addition of each of these six funded officer positions will allow for a significant increase in the level of service the detachment provides to our community, and would enhance overall public and police officer safety,” said McNamara.

Coun. Brian Quiring is in favour of the request for more officers, but not necessarily a half-dozen.

“I’m totally supportive of 54. I have a hard time with 56,” said Quiring.

Vernon administrator Will Pearce told council and staff he is recommending a 6.38 per cent tax increase in 2018 which includes the request for the six officers.

“This administration believes the need for six officers to deal with the calls for service is warranted,” said Pearce.

The tax hike would include a 1.57 per cent increase in operations costs, a 1.9 per cent hike for infrastructure and 2.91 per cent for the six officers.

Council will hold two days of budget deliberations Nov. 29 and 30.

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