Concerns about inadequate police coverage in rural areas will be sent to the Southern Interior Local Government Association via a resolution approved at the Feb. 16 Columbia Shuswap Regional District board meeting.
“My favourite topic,” said Area D Falkland-Silver Creek-Ranchero director René Talbot as discussion began. “We supposedly have a detachment in Falkland, but nobody’s ever there. We have two officers and a constable but they’re so busy in Armstrong, so we’re left out.”
An irate Talbot, who has long sought an increase in police coverage for Falkland, said he had been told about a woman who, from the road she was on, heard a domestic dispute going inside a home, called 911, and waited for police for over an hour. Talbot told directors many members of local RCMP detachments are on longtime disability.
“In one month, they had 39 sick days,” he said, noting it took police over an hour to respond to a serious accident. “It’s unbelievable. The rural areas suffer and that’s totally unacceptable.”
Happy to vote in favour of the motion, Area E Rural Sicamous director Rhona Martin said discussions about problems with rural policing have been going on at the CSRD board table for many years.
“It needs to be looked at,” she said. “I know municipalities pay a lot, but we pay as well and we should get adequate coverage.”
City of Salmon Arm rep Debbie Cannon said Salmon Arm Staff Sgt. Kevin Keane told city council he has 19 active members and policing in Area C South Shuswap has not increased in 30 years, despite the huge population increase.
Cannon told directors policing costs amount to 24 per cent of the city’s budget.
“Quite often our municipal officers go out to rural areas, but there’s no way to account for that,” she said. “They don’t want officers to be alone, but they don’t have the budget for it.”
Talbot pointed out Falkland had their own budget for policing, “but higher ups in the Vernon RCMP decided the budget should go to Vernon. They have money to run the (Falkland) detachment – but there’s never anybody there.”
Martin, meanwhile, suggested everyone was “singing from the same song sheet,” and if municipal members are off on leave, the rural component is stepping in to fill up the gaps.
If thee regional district’s resolution on increased policing is endorsed by SILGA it will be sent on to the Union of BC Municipalities’ AGM, a move that does not instil Martin with confidence.
“When we go to UBCM we don’t have enough time or clout,” she said. “Maybe we need to go to Victoria with this.”
Confidence was not high on Talbot’s list either, as he prepares to attend a regional RCMP meeting at the end of the months.
Area C South Shuswap director and board chair Ted Bacigalupo also supported the resolution, which passed unanimously.
“I know Salmon Arm spends a lot of time in C and F because of agricultural industry,” he said. “We need to rekindle the process of dealing with the RCMP.”
The board meanwhile will send an invitation to the superintendent and local RCMP detachment staff sergeants to speak to the board about communication and policing needs in electoral areas.