COVID-19, and the public health orders implemented to combat it, has posed significant challenges for the Kelowna RCMP over the last year, says top cop Supt. Kara Triance.
In her first report to city council on Monday, Triance outlined the struggles the local detachment has faced through the pandemic as part of a presentation on 2020 crime trends.
RCMP enforcement of public health orders has increased the workload on local officers, Triance said, adding the detachment has taken on new training regimes related to the new area of enforcement. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, health orders were enforced by medical health officers at health authorities like Interior Health.
As was the case for many detachments across the country through 2020, Triance said “pandemic-related factors” also likely contributed to increased domestic violence and assault offences, each growing more than 15 per cent through 2020.
Coun. Brad Sieben, citing recent instances in which people have refused to don a mask at local businesses in an attempt to make a “political statement,” asked Triance whether calling 911 is the right course of action during such altercations.
“In a case where lives are being put at risk, where individuals are not wearing a mask or breaching any sort of public health order — particularly given we’re fighting a global pandemic — this is a time to call the police,” she said.
Mayor Colin Basran asked Triance to address the police response to large anti-COVID-restriction rallies across the street from city hall every weekend, pointing to the belief expressed by some that the city and RCMP are not doing enough to stop the demonstrations.
Triance says the detachment has done its best to manage the rallies in a way that protects public safety while allowing the demonstrators their right to protest peacefully.
So far, the self-identified organizer of the protests, David Kevin Lindsay, has been fined three times for a total of $6,900 for hosting the weekly rallies. However, individual participants have not been given fines.
“In this case, we have chosen to focus our efforts on those of the highest jeopardy, and that is the organizers of the events,” Triance said. “When the manner is so egregious, we are no longer able to respond through the repeated laying of violation tickets; we bring those matters to the BC Prosecution Service.”
Those reports to Crown counsel are reviewed by prosecutors, which could result in charges. In the case the Crown does not approve charges, the RCMP can still issue a fine for up to a year after the offence.
Council lauded the new commander’s direction and active communication with residents. Coun. Charlie Hodge said Triance has instilled “a tremendous sense of confidence” that had been lacking under former leadership.
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