Keyboard warriors unhelpful

South Okanagan RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager watches hundreds of comments roll in on social media every week angrily complaining about policing in Penticton. It's their right to do so, he says, but he wants citizens to have a full picture of what the police do.

"People that don't have an understanding of the criminal justice system, people who want the folks sitting on the library lawn or in Nanaimo Square loaded on a bus and sent off to another community, that's not what we do as police," De Jager said.

"Even if we could do that, I think that's startling indictment on our society that we want to ship our problems somewhere else instead of dealing with them head on. But that's what is out there."

Scrolling through local Facebook groups, it's not hard to spot negative comments, many of which are directed straight at De Jager.

"There's very personal attacks. I've been wearing the uniform of this country for 37 years, so you can paste my head onto anybody's body, I don't really give a hoot. It's not solving anything," De Jager said, apparently referring to a meme that has recently circulated of his face imposed on Chief Wiggum, a character from The Simpsons. 

"My members see that, my members strap on their body armour every morning and they go out and serve this community, and that's the response they get. And quite frankly it's...I won't say the word."

De Jager says he keeps in mind the loud, negative voices online are what he calls a vocal minority. The silent majority, he says, shows their support in other ways than diatribe on social media. 

"My members can't go for a week without someone buying them a coffee card or someone dropping off something for them at the front counter, or flowers for the members during the mass shooting," De Jager said. 

He says comments that police do nothing in town and are never around are unfounded. The 46 members of the Penticton detachment cover a wide area, with seven on duty each full shift. 

Each member also has responsibilities like appearing in court, training and working on investigations on top of potential patrol duties. 

Currently, the police are working on eight ongoing child pornography investigations in Penticton and three major frauds, as an example of the work that keeps them busy.

"Why don't you see more on the road? That's why," De Jager said. "I agree with people that say we want more visibility, these members here, and where that police car is, there's no crime happening. But where that police car isn't, what do we do about that? With 10 physical cars, we could not cover this whole area." 

On Wednesday, July 10, they received 60 calls for services. Even a minor call like a disturbance or a suspicious person takes an officer roughly an hour between investigating the scene, speaking to relevant parties and clearing, De Jager explained. 

That's not to say they don't care about every incident, he added — he just wants the information out there about the workload the police are dealing with. He also wants to puncture a few misconceptions about what the police should or even can do about calls reporting substance use. 

"If we don't find any drugs, that's the end of it. We're walking away. We can't just roust the guy into jail just because he's a drug user, as much as many of the commenters on social media would want us to," De Jager said.

"We get the same thing about alcohol, 'I saw him drinking a beer and the police just took it away from him.' Yup, that's what we'll do. We can't arrest them for drinking in public." In the case of someone intoxicated who is a danger to themselves or others, the individual may spend some time sobering up at the station, but they won't be charged if they aren't in possession of an illegal substance.

The focus is on the prolific offenders and drug dealers, and the new drug enforcement unit has already started knocking in doors De Jager said, pointing to a major fentanyl and heroin bust on Monday. 

In the meantime, he hopes those complaining online will step up to help. 

"I've invited everybody to join our Citizens on Patrol, build a block watch, look out for your neighbours, that's all there. And to date, lots of talk and lots of keyboard strokes but not a lot of people joining up," De Jager said.

He asked media to let the public know that anyone is welcome to pop by the detachment and ask for him or email him directly at ted.deja[email protected]

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