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Kelowna's top cop gets funding for new officers from council

Kelowna RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon's annual plea for more cops went over well with the new city council.

During today's budget talks the persuasive Mountie got his men and women, meaning the local police force will be boosted by four new senior officers and a crime analyst for a total cost of $327,000.

"We need help, I'll be very honest," he told council, as he made his pitch.

The day before budget talks got underway, McKinnon explained a bit about why they were needed:

Jan. 16, 2012

When Kelowna police Supt. Bill McKinnon heads to council chambers today and pleads the case for six more officer salaries to be slotted into the budget, he won't have to dig deep for compelling supporting evidence.

Acres of newspaper ink, video footage and radio recordings have been dedicated to telling the stories of how the local police stumbled out of public favour in 2011 behind a handful of Mounties who earned public scorn and assault charges in the line of duty.  And McKinnon will argue, the devil to those cases is really in the details.

"Given the number of junior members, there's a real need to have supervisors to correct behaviours or assist with ongoing investigations," said McKinnon,  who wants funding for four senior members, a crime analyst and an exhibit control officer, amounting to a grand total of $530,880.

"We have so many very serious incidents and we're asking junior members to make split second decisions. We should have more senior officers there to (assist in) making those decisions."

The unfortunate reality  is the absence of time-tested officers in the field results in some members making the wrong choices. It's something McKinnon said is "embarrassing" and damaging to the detachment at large.

It also doesn't help police move forward as they work on a mounting number of police files, dealing with increasingly complicated matters.

"We work on arsons, robberies, assaults, serious stabbings … there are a multitude of incidents we deal with on a daily basis," he said.

Add to the mix a growing presence of organized crime— most notable when gangster Jonathan Bacon was gunned down outside the Delta Grand— and the McKinnon argues that resources are far too taxed.

"We've had to work on a number of homicides that deal with organized crime," he said. "We get a lot of help from (Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit), but all the ground work (on the first week) is done by our forces."

McKinnon hasn't been shy about laying out his need for new officers in budget deliberations past, and it's not expected he'll hold back this round.

It wasn't, however,  figured into the provisional budget that was presented two weeks ago.

In that document, city officials toyed with the idea of dropping 2012 municipal property taxes by 0.04 per cent over last year. It means  the owner of a typical $511,000 house would pay a $1,716 levy, which is about the same as last year.

Hovering near that mark and considering further expenses, said Mayor Walter Gray, is doable and would show the community that they understand their current struggles.

"There will be a bit of pain, but it doesn't look terribly bad," said Gray.

 

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