The Kelowna RCMP is highlighting the support staff that work behind the scenes.
One of the newest positions created by the City of Kelowna to address a need for rising call volume is the watch support officer, or WSO, according to a release from the RCMP.
Kelowna now has a total of four of these staff carrying peace officer status who handle issues that don’t necessarily require a frontline officer response.
A WSO is eligible to receive calls from the public, assess the call and then determine an appropriate action. They can also retrieve and process exhibits, video surveillance, manage curfew checks and DNA.
"The WSOs have been become an integral component of our detachment’s frontline policing duties, as they have allowed our officers more time to focus on priorities such as community safety initiatives, property crime and proactive enforcement,” says watch commander Brad Swecera.
WSOs are trained to take calls that are less serious in nature when danger to a person is not imminent. The Kelowna Detachment receives several calls centred around lost property, particularly in the summer months when tourists are vacationing. When calls of this nature are received and frontline officers are actively engaged in other priority calls, the WSO works with the patrol supervisors to determine if additional police action is required.
The early engagement of the WSOs allow for more timely response to these types of files and facilitates collaboration and strategic deployment of resources to ensure the best support to the entire community.
The WSO program has been prioritizing the handling and collection of Closed-Circuit TV footage that supports the gathering of evidence and identification of suspects. They can seize, or receive the footage, view it and assist with identification of the suspects within the video. In turn the WSO’s are watching an incredible amount of video footage and by doing so have been able to identify suspects and their criminal trends and/or similarities. The efficiency of the team has aided in the identification of repeat offenders and groups of individuals working together to commit property crimes.
WSOs are hired by the City of Kelowna with each watch assigned one to work alongside the general duty officers and work closely with the watch commanders.