Kelowna politicians praised local Mounties Monday, before signing off on a document that could amount to the implementation of a citizen-run body to investigate complaints of misconduct.
“The timing (of this) is a bit awkward,” Coun. Andre Blanleil said, referring to the fact that the resolution being sent to the Southern Interior Local Government Association came on the heels of a police brutality protest, and could indicate anti-police sentiment on council. If the resolution is approved at the association-level, it will be forwarded to the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual conference, where local-level politicians lobby to impact provincial legislation and, in this case, to get a civilian oversight committee to oversee B.C.’s police forces.
“I want everyone to be aware the RCMP dealt with the issue we had in Kelowna aggressively … I don’t want to belittle (Const. Geoff Mantler’s) mistake,” Blanleil said. “But it’s been done and this is not tied to anything we’ve dealt with in the last couple of months. It’s about serious complaints about the RCMP.”
Coun. Graeme James added his words of support, saying the timing was “unfortunate” and RCMP have a difficult job and it’s too bad one person has tainted the whole crew.
“I feel we should get behind our RCMP,” he said. “They do a great job.”
The submission that prompted the testimonials read: “Let it be resolved that the province create a B.C. civilian oversight committee with a mandate to review citizen complaints of a serious nature against the RCMP/police.”
While bringing the resolution forward on the heels of a police protest could be interpreted as wholesale criticism of Supt. Bill McKinnon and his police force, Coun. Luke Stack pointed out that it’s just timely.
“Many people are on the same page,” he said, adding that even McKinnon favours an oversight committee. “It could benefit them and us, as a civilization.”
Coun. Charlie Hodge added that this recent turn of events isn’t the first time that complaints against police have come to the fore, and their resolution merely mirrored public will.
Concerns over the local police force aren’t new. Const. Mantler is the recipient of two complaints, which are among 22 made against Kelowna officers in 2010.
Surrey RCMP have four times as many officers, and have been subject to 21 complaints. The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP revealed recently that the a like-sized police force in Coquitlam, had seven complaints.