In his report on ways to tackle the opioid crisis, homelessness and other public safety problems in the city, former RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon says Kelowna needs more cops—both full-fledged officers and auxiliaries.
Those officers will be hard to come by, however, due to a lack of trained and ready RCMP officers, and the ongoing suspension of the auxiliary program by the RCMP.
So McKinnon says the city needs to keep lobbying for a return of the auxiliary program.
He said when he led the RCMP in the city in 2010, Kelowna had 65 auxiliary officers who put in a total of 11,000 hours per year of free and invaluable service.
With a total cost of $168,000 per full-time RCMP officer in the city, the cost of adding more cops is expensive.
According to McKinnon, the sticking point for return of the auxiliary program appears to be what type of uniforms the auxiliaries would wear.
The city currently budgets for an RCMP city force of 188 officers, but McKinnon said at any time there could be as many as 30 vacancies due to issues such as new officers yet to arrive, sick time, maternity and paternity leaves, injuries, time off and other issues.
Still, the city is looking at how at how to provide more cops in future budgets.
“We are trying to figure that out with minimal taxation impact,” said deputy city manager Joe Creron told city council Monday.
Kelowna’s former top cop repeated his mantra the city will not “arrest its way” out of the current opioid crisis and enforcement is just part of the answer to the dealing with public safety issues facing the city.
Asked directly by Coun. Brad Sieben if concerns about safety in the city are real or just perception, McKinnon said there are legitimate safety concerns at this time, but public education is also needed.
In presenting his report, McKinnon said the city needs to take on a leadership role in addressing the issues and work with others stakeholders, not as a partner but as a leader.
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