RCMP working big overtime

Penticton RCMP officers worked nearly 5,000 hours of overtime last year, but the detachment’s commander isn’t quite calling for more members.

Supt. Ted De Jager was before city council Tuesday for a year-end presentation, and was faced with a room considerably more cheerful compared to when he last visited in December.

Mayor John Vassilaki noted the detachment’s overtime total, 4,924 hours last year, and asked the commander if hiring more officers would help cut down on overtime.

De Jager explained the entire regional detachment will be at 100 per cent staffing in March, which should help things, but said new hiring might need to be considered as overtime hours start to eclipse those of what a full-time Mountie would provide.

“It’s much more expensive to run overtime than to have a member,” De Jager said, noting overtime pays at a rate of 1.5 of double depending on when the member is working.

He said most of the overtime billed last year was needed to maintain regular operations.

Coun. Jake Kimberley pointed to the hours officers have to spend in court or preparing paperwork as something the general public doesn’t fully understand.

“I empathize with those in our community that want to see more police visibility and we are definitely working on that to move that forward, but the complexity of crime is such that it unfortunately takes our members off the road more that we would like,” De Jager said.

Coun. Sentes was particularly intrigued by the year-end data on distracted and drunk driving. Seventy-one distracted driving tickets were handed out in Penticton last year in addition to 99 drunk driving suspensions. A total of eight fatal crashes occurred in the South Okanagan.

“This data is devastating when you look at it,” Sentes said, adding it puts some of the complaints about downtown vagrancy into context.

“I’m not trying to minimize or take away, nor be disrespectful of their concerns about safety downtown,” she said. “But drunken driving, distracted driving. That’s their [the public’s] safety as well.”

“It also shows how much more you have to divide your attention to,” Sentes added.

Coun. Katie Robinson suggested the police do more to inform the public about active crime hot spots, something De Jager said they are working on.

Mayor Vassilaki asked De Jager to conduct a deeper analysis of the detachment’s staffing to determine if there is a need for new officers and report back prior to budget deliberations next month.

Two more constables are already set to be added to the attachment in 2020-2021, as a part of a plan from 2017 to add four officer over five years.

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