Mayors worried of cop 'hub'

Two South Okanagan mayors raised concerns to the region's top cop about suggested increased policing centralization in Penticton.

At the UBCM in Whistler last week, BC RCMP assistant commissioner Eric Stubbs said the province could move to a centralized policing model in some areas and close some smaller detachments, specifically mentioning the South Okanagan.

South Okanagan RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager said communities would be staffed with one officer around the clock, who would start their shift in Penticton and commute to the smaller areas — likely with different officers daily.

"The advantage is that it’s 24 hours," South Okanagan RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager said. "The disadvantage is… you don’t have that consistency, which is what you enjoy and what you want from a community perspective.

"And that’s the way it’s staying," he added, repeating there's "no discussion right now" to actually pursue a policing hub.

Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer and Summerland Mayor Peter Waterman took issue to the policing hub idea at Thursday's regional board meeting.

"Obviously I’m very concerned the primary driver for these kinds of decisions could be budgeting rather than community safety," Bauer told De Jager. "I feel personally that Keremeos is a hub already. We have highways there, we have a large area to deal with."

The Keremeos RCMP detachment has five officers, who serve the village as well as all of Area B, G and the Lower Similkameen Indian Band.

"I’m hoping if there’s any beginning of even planning anything with this that we are consulted... long before a decision is made," Bauer added. "Because often those decisions are unfortunately made in the minds of upper echelons who really don’t know the area."

Waterman pointed out closing the Summerland RCMP detachment would be controversial in the community. The $4.6-million opened only six years ago, and he noted it was controversial at the time.

And while De Jager told Castanet last week the new Summerland detachment doesn't have holding cells, Waterman pointed out Thursday the facility does in fact have its own holding cells, which have never been manned due to financial difficulties.

"That was a major aspect of that building... I know it won't go down well with the community if it appears as though this brand-new building was put in place and then we have an obvious reduction in the type of [police] coverage that we've had," Waterman said.

De Jager reasserted no conversations are currently taking place about the Summerland and Keremeos RCMP detachments, other than "potentially services that will support them," which he said would be discussed later in the day during a board meeting closed to the public. 

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