Kelowna cops to be at full strength by this summer

City's top cop says 11 new officers plus four replacements will be in place by July 1.

Kelowna’s top cop says his detachment is heading into the summer in better shape than it has in several years.

RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon told Kelowna city council Monday that he expects to have all the new officers approved by council in its recent municipal budget in place by July 1.

“It’s the best shape we’ve been in for some time,” said McKinnon.

He said all 11 new officers, plus the replacements for four officers who are leaving the detachment will be here for the summer, meaning additions to the detachment’s target team, which goes after specific crimes such as marijuana growing operations, as well as the property crime unit, the homicide investigation team and an additional officer to help with internal investigations.

McKinnon said with the number of complaints against RCMP officers here growing and a new directive from his superiors that accusations against officers for things like lying, cheating  and stealing must be dealt with within seven days, a second internal investigations officer is needed here.

He said he is still wrestling with what to do with one of the another new officer and he or she could be asigned to help with domestic violence. The officer could also be assigned as the third school liason officer in the city.

McKinnon said while Kelowna was recently identified as having the highest number of domestic assaults in B.C. and the third highest in Canada, the reason for that could be  his officers have been very successful in convincing victims of domestic violence to report it.

“And if it is not reported it will continue to happen,” said McKinnon.

As a result of more reporting, the RCMP superintendent said Kelowna rates so high on the recent list.

“It’s a double-edged sword for us,” he said.

According to statistics presented to council on Monday, the number of spousal assaults in the city in the first four months of 2012 was down 35.45 per cent compared to the same period in 2010, the time period used in the report that called for more police officers for the city earlier this year.

Meanwhile, other areas where crime was down between January and April included sex offences(36 per  cent), break and enters (31 per cent), auto theft (22.9 per cent), theft over $5,000 (22 per cent), impaired driving (53.7 per cent), 24-hour driving offence citations (78.5 per cent) and motor vehicle accident (18,8 per cent). Spousal assaults were down 35 per cent and domestic disputes were down 8 .5 per cent.

Areas where crime was up included: robberies (2.5 per cent), assaults (7.7 per cent) and theft under $5,000 (7.6 per cent).

Asked about decriminalizing marijuana, McKinnon said he liked his job too much to offer an opinion other than to say it is his job to enforce the law and the law currently says marijuana is illegal.

But he said his officers have not gone after any adult individual for simple possession in the last 12 months.

“That’s simply not our practice,” said McKinnon.

Grow ops however and drugs in schools are a different matter.

“There are protocols for drugs in schools to deal with them there,” he added.

As for the number of officers coming here, he said in addition to the new officers authorized by council and filling for retirements and the officers leaving, Kelowna will get 15 new officers here this summer and four will leave the detachment.

As an aside, he said, four of his officers are still working on shooting murder of Jonathan Bacon here last summer. Two of those officers are being paid for by the province.