West Kelowna’s mayor says he has seen the issue come up at meetings of B.C. municipal politicians before, but his council is taking another run at trying to get the province to provide more rural police officers.
Doug Findlater said the concern cities like his have is when a single detachment houses both city-funded RCMP officers and provincially-funded rural-area officers, the growth of the two components is often not equal. And that can mean cops that the city pays for are sometimes used to supplement rural duties, work that should be paid for by the province not city taxpayers.
So West Kelowna is asking B.C.’s minister of public safety and solicitor general to initiate a review of the number of provincial (rural-area) officers serving at what are known as “integrated” detachments when the municipal component is increased.
The motion, to be put forward at the next Southern Interior Local Government Association convention, says the review is needed to make sure both municipal and provincial areas are being funded fairly when it comes to police resources.
As the workload grows for municipal RCMP officers in West Kelowna, the city has added more cops. But the province has not added more rural officers, creating what West Kelowna says could be an imbalance and financial subsidy being paid by its residents.
West Kelowna added two more RCMP officers this year to try and meet what new RCMP detachment commander Staff-Sgt. Lesli Roseberry called a very high workload on her officers when she addressed council in January.
Rural RCMP officers working out of the West Kelowna detachment patrol Westbank First Nation lands—where much of the commercial growth on the Westside is now located—as well as the rural areas north of West Kelowna and of Peachland. The detachment also provides rural officers for the Big White ski resort east of Kelowna. (However, those officers work out of Rutland in order to be closer to the ski Hill.)
Findlater said the city is currently trying to get information about calls-for-service for both the city and rural components to see how police resources are being used and where the demand is.
Added to the mix is the fact Peachland, whose population is now over 5,000, now has a police contract of its own and officers for that community work out of the West Kelowna detachment. Communities in B.C. with population under 5,000 do not pay for policing. It is paid for by the province.
Policing is usually one of the biggest line items in any municipal budget and, combined with other protective services like the fire department, will cost West Kelowna more than $14 million this year.
Municipalities in B.C. that use the RCMP as their police force get their police services under a contract negotiated between the RCMP and the province.
The City of West Kelowna, which is nine years old, took over responsibility for policing shortly after incorporation, and Findlater described the agreement it made with the province to do so as a good one for the city. But during its most recent budget deliberations, councillors raised concern about the lack of additions to the rural component while the city was increasing the number of municipal officers.
Including the two new officers approved for this year, West Kelowna has 25 RCMP municipal officers and there are 19 rural officers said Findlater.