The top Mountie in the West Kootenay-Boundary wants local politicians to take a message to their provincial counterparts.
Insp. Tim Olmstead asked the directors of the Regional District of the Central Kootenay to lobby for more money for police officers in his region.
“We really haven’t had any added investment into policing by the province, and that is having a ripple effect down to the front line,” Olmstead told the RosslandNews. “Where shortages of funding prevent us from effecting timely transfers effectively, it causes an inability to create staff positions we would like to create here in the Southeast District.”
Olmstead made the comments at last week’s monthly meeting of the RDCK’s board of directors.
There are 82 people — both police and civilian staff — working in the West Kootenay-Boundary detachment of the Southeast region. In some cases, individual detachments can be down 30 per cent on their official complement of staff for extended periods, Olmstead says.
While there are few hard vacancies — positions left unfilled — there are several nagging soft vacancies, created by delays in transfers and situations where officers can’t report for duty.
As well, many of those positions are being taken by raw recruits from the police academy, and fewer by trained, experienced officers.
He says the problem comes down to money.
“The RCMP in general has a bit of an attraction and retention issue with our human resources,” he says. “And much of that is founded in the relative pay scale compared to other police forces.
“We’re not quite as competitive as we used to be and for that we have sometimes difficulty attracting people to come work for the RCMP and that is reflected in the Kootenay-Boundary.”
He says that means more work is being piled on fewer officers.
“The members that remain on duty are servicing a higher case load, and they are working more than their scheduled 40 hours per week,” he says. “And it takes a toll both psychologically and physically — it does catch up with them.”
‘The RCMP will always be there’
But Olmstead is quick to point out that the shortfall shouldn’t have residents worried for their safety.
“There’s no need for concern. The RCMP will always be there to answer the call,” he says. “And we will respond in an appropriate manner to the nature of the call.
“If we have insufficient numbers in the region to address the situation, then other members will come from outside the Kootenay-Boundary and take care of the situation as it dictates.”
Olmstead hopes the regional politicians will take that message to their provincial counterparts at the upcoming meeting of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
“That is the hope, that there is clear messaging to all our elected officials that the RCMP does need a bit of added investment to … supplement our staff,” he says. “We have four detachments in the RDCK that are due for an increase in staffing, but we just can’t fill those position unless we get the funding.”
Olmstead oversees detachments in Nelson, Castlegar, Trail, Salmo, Kaslo, New Denver, Nakusp, Grand Forks, and Midway.