RCMP union says officers pushed to their operational limits

Stressed out RCMP officers

The National Police Federation says the Kelowna RCMP is being pushed to its limits.

Rob Farrer, a veteran RCMP officer and director of the RCMP union's Pacific region, says policing in the Okanagan, and specifically Kelowna, has changed a lot.

He highlighted the stabbing of a police officer in the line of duty last month.

"When you show up to that call, never mind the member, the individual who was stabbed and the trauma for that person, but this is a friend of yours, and you show up and try and deal professionally with the aftermath of that. It's not a simple thing."

The Vancouver Sun reported this week on an email sent to RCMP brass in the wake of that officer stabbing, suggesting burnout at the detachment. The Mountie that sent it is considering resigning to preserve their own mental health.

Kelowna RCMP commander Supt. Kara Triance acknowledged the challenges in an interview with Castanet late last year, saying it is a "tough time to be a police officer."

Farrer says policing in Kelowna has changed as the city has grown.

"It's becoming a larger city. It's about the size of Regina, certainly in the summer, and comes with the challenges that come with that, including the entrenched street population, which is growing, and the addiction and substance misuse. All of those things factor into increased calls for service for our members."

Farrer said it is also increasingly difficult to find recruits to fill vacancies.

Just before Christmas, the Victoria Police Department offered a $20,000 signing bonus to attract new officers, "it's just very challenging to get recruits, it's very difficult to attract people in policing right now."

The number of officers entering training at Depot has falling dramatically during the pandemic, with just 380 graduating in 2020 instead of the typical 1,200.

Farrer says policing has become more complex and the burden of evidence requirements for what the court system requires is growing alongside the public's expectations.

Public safety is job one according to Farrer, "we want the public to feel safe and we require the public trust to do effective policing."

The National Police Federation has been certified as the RCMP's union since 2019 and they are aware of the issues and working to improve conditions.

"We're working on all these things with the federal government, with the provincial government and municipalities, to try and improve all the working conditions for the members and make it the best job it can be," Farrer says.

"I remember early on in my career in Yellowknife, you could get two or three impaired drivers through a single member in an evening. Now, I would say that's impossible."

Farrer says there is now so much basic data-entry required for every file that's attended.

Farrer says he and the rest of the union are working with management to recruit more staff to alleviate the shortfall and ease pressure on other RCMP members. But he asked an interesting question, "what's the best use of a police officer?"

Farrer says he knows there is still a lot of work to be done to answer that question

"The officers in charge of Kelowna, I know are working hard on that type of thing. So I do think there are some solutions and I'm optimistic that there are."

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