Waters: More than report needed for new Kelowna cops

Is the public willing to pay milions more for additional police officers?

Policing is a big budget item for any municipality.

And, if the recommendations of a consultant’s report looking at how many cops Kelowna should have are followed, the cost is likely to grow here over the next few years.

In his report, Robert Prosser says to have a “material impact” on reducing the caseload currently being carried by officiers at the Kelowna RCMP detachment, the city needs more than 20 new RCMP officers. City council has already approved four more, giving Kelowna’s top cop, Supt. Bill McKinnon the greenlight for the hirings during its recent budget deliberation.

But unlike the new cops Prosser is proposing, the city already had $300,000 of the $327,000 required to pay the quartet and the civilian crime analyst it approved for the six months of this year that will work—they are not expected to start until the fall.

It’s next year and beyond when taxpayers will really feel the pinch.

So Kelowna’s new city council has some tough decisions to make now that it knows what’s needed here.

The findings in Prosser’s report, which was officially presented to council yesterday afternoon, should come as no surprise.

For years McKinnon has been saying his officers are overworked. Despite some creative staff shuffling, the addition of officers and civilian support staff by successive city councils and a drop in the crime rate, Kelowna continues to be the most under policed metropolitan area in the country, according to Statistics Canada.Officiers at the Doyle Avenue detachment currently face a caseload of 128 per 100,000 population. The city wants to reduce that to 70.5.

But will that make the streets safer?

The argument is that with more officers on the street, crime-fighting will increase. Hey, the city may even get to initiate some crime prevention measures and get proactive, as opposed to reactive. While every cop is a crime prevention officer, the actual post that carries that tile has been vacant here for the last two years.

But, as is the case with any municipal service, it will cost money to make that happen. Given the current appetite for no tax increases, the question is simple—is the perception of crime amongst the public strong enough to make taxpayers willing to shell out more for more cops?

While council will make the final decision about what tax and spend, ultimately its up to residents to send the message.

Do you think the city is adequately policed? If not, are you willing to spend the estimated $2 million more per year on policing it will take to add the extra officers?

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.

Kelowna Capital News