Kelowna mayor takes ride-along with RCMP

Dyas rides along with RCMP

Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas says he is working to fulfill one of his top campaign promises: public safety. But now that he's been in the mayor's chair for five months, he's starting to appreciate the size of the task at hand.

One of the first things Dyas arranged was an RCMP ride-along.

"It was extremely, extremely important for me to do it so that I could see what is happening within the community. It was very eye-opening to me," Dyas said, explaining he got to see firsthand what RCMP officers and health agencies are dealing with on Kelowna's streets.

"When we pulled up to certain individuals, the RCMP officers were just amazing. They were very aware of the individuals within our community who have these health issues, and they are very compassionate towards them and trying to work with them. But they also recognize that they are health issues and that they need to be treated accordingly."

Dyas says the decriminalization of small amounts of drugs in the province is now preventing RCMP officers from interacting with some of these individuals and potentially asking questions that could lead to something else.

"They (RCMP) understand the idea of the need for these individuals because of their health issues. The need for them to be able to have those drugs and [they know] taking them away from them creates a whole other type of scenario. But that ride-along was very interesting because it showed the compassion that the RCMP have and what they're dealing with. It was very eye-opening for me with regards to the job that they are trying to do and the restrictions that are being imposed upon them," Dyas continued.

"I think what struck me was the need for these individuals to have health-related treatments. [RCMP] have limitations that are imposed on them, and some of the restrictions are also limiting their ability to help these people."

The mayor is hoping for a collaborative approach involving the municipality, police, and Interior Health.

"Other countries have looked at removing incarceration for people caught possessing any type of illicit drugs, but they've also put in place panels of social workers and medical professionals and drug experts so that these individuals can be referred to drug treatment programs," Dyas said.

"Regrettably, [we don't] have that other structure to it. Decriminalization is there so that incarceration doesn't take place, but it doesn't have that stronger structure behind it. And part of that stronger structure behind is that care, that complex care for these individuals. So our role is to advocate as strongly as we can to maximize the number of available spaces and supports in our community in order to help."

Dyas is also calling on the provincial government to ban drugs in parks with playgrounds in them.

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