Penticton council rejects mayor's plea for 5 new Mounties, approves 2

2 RCMP officers approved

Penticton city council met on Thursday to discuss a request from Mayor John Vassilaki for five more RCMP officers for the city, but ended up unanimously approving just two officers.

The motion for five police officers failed 4-3.

Vassilaki started off the meeting by explaining the urgent need for immediate action.

“I do realize that additional policing will be addressed in our upcoming budget deliberations. This is key for long term planning… to support that decision to know from what time of our approval, it takes eight to 16 months to fill a position. So every day we delay is costing us. If we cannot close the gap immediately it may become so large,” he said in his plea to council.

“I want us to take a proactive position in the immediate funds to address this.”

Coun. Katie Robinson expressed that while the city needs more officers, there needs to be more time to effectively look over how much it will cost.

“When you hire a police officer at $190,000 a year, that's an ongoing cost that this community is going to pay the brunt of,” she said.

Those thoughts echoed throughout the other councillors, that while the need for more RCMP is clear, the tax increase is too great to just jump into.

RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter joined the meeting to reiterate the high case load local officers take on, calling it "egregious."

“My opinion is five is a good start. What is the actual number? I think we need to go in increments and get more officers here to get that crime rate down. And just to recapitulate what I've stated before, we're just response oriented."

“We do zero proactive policing in this community because we just simply don't have the time.”

Councillors also continued to debate how adding RCMP isn't going to magically solve many of the larger root causes of crime.

“I firmly believe that the missing piece of the puzzle in all of this is the failure of our judicial system to keep prolific offenders in jail,” Robinson said.

“Homelessness is a symptom of an underlying problem, crime is a symptom of an underlying problem and addiction is one of the causes of the problem and is maybe a symptom of a greater problem as well, dealing with the symptom, dealing with the issues will alleviate the symptoms,” Councillor Julius Bloomfield added.

“There still probably is a need for more police officers, but what we need to do is help the police do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.”

Coun. Judy Sentes noted that every time the issue of hiring more officers comes up, it's deferred because of what it would cost.

Suggestions were made to hire two more RCMP officers, and leave the request for more until the entire budget can be looked at.

“I would still appreciate and be happy with adding two immediate RCMP officers, and any additional RCMP officers and or firefighters, bylaw, etc, pending the review done by a consultant,” Coun. Campbell Watt said

Council agreed on a motion to add on the two police officers immediately and request that they be deployed as soon as possible, along with staff completing a safety report before the budget meeting in the next few weeks.

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton joined the meeting in the public comment period to add that now is the time to reach out to other authorities and levels of government to continue work on the issue.

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