A report given to city council on Monday calls for an additional 56 officers and 28 civilian positions within the Kelowna RCMP detachment by 2025 to combat understaffing and high case-loads.
The added personnel would cost the city over $12 million.
Curt Taylor Griffiths and Nahanni Pollard, two criminology professors from Simon Fraser University and Douglas College respectively, put together the in-depth, third-party resource review for the City of Kelowna, stating many of the Kelowna RCMP’s shortcomings are due to understaffing.
The 2012 Prosser Report, which also looked at police resources in the city, came to a similar conclusion, resulting in the city adding 40 officers since that time. It has been seven years since that report and according to Griffiths, it’s time to take another look.
“A lot of things have happened in seven years,” he said. “The difficulty with the Prosser report is that it kind of took place in a vacuum. It wasn’t really clear how what was being recommended fit with everything else … Without getting into a detailed critique of his methodology — it was pretty narrow.”
According to the new report, due to understaffing, Kelowna’s RCMP officers are often left with little-to-no proactive time to combat issues before they happen.
Within the Kelowna RCMP, members often carry 66 files on average, more than double that of municipal RCMP members in other cities who carry an average of 32 files per officer, according to Griffiths.
“In Kelowna, you have general duty members, somebody who may be a year or two out of depot, carrying 45 files,” he said.
“That is an outlier, even for the RCMP. In discussions with detachments and commanders in the Lower Mainland, they say 32 max — maybe 25. Any more than that and you’re running into trouble.”
The cause of this, Griffiths said, is understaffed investigative units are handing down files to general duty officers.
“You’ve got this cascading effect going on where your general duty members are carrying not only a high number of files but the types of files they’re carrying are very problematic,” he said.
“They’re also carrying files over $100,000. That is not seen in RCMP detachments across the country.”
The issue results in overworked officers and civilian staff who can face issues with work/life balance and mental health, according to Griffiths.
“Officers are not picking up their phones when they’re called to come in to do overtime,” he said.
“Why? Number one, they’re burned out; and number two, as one officer told me, ‘If I take an overtime shift, I get another five more files. I’ve already got 40. I can’t do it’”
Griffiths added this affects officers’ performance on the job, their family and their career.
Coun. Gail Given expressed concern with the impact this would have on taxpayers.
“We need to move somewhere into the future that has more staff,” she said.
“If we just dropped all of these people tomorrow — what kind of a tax impact would that be? Obviously, we can’t do that all in one year. Whatever the number would be, it would be untenable from our taxpayers’ perspective.”
Mayor Colin Basran asked if the proposed additions would catch the city up to staffing numbers it should currently have or if it takes into account the city’s growth over the coming years.
Griffiths replied, saying that it depends on what provincial initiatives are implemented in Kelowna by organizations such as BC Housing.
“If the province doesn’t come to the table, you’re going to end up spending more and more resources, which are a consequence of addicted and mentally ill people,” he said.
“[Those issues] are driving a lot of demands for service in this community. Adequately staffing your shifts, just to respond to people who should be having their issues adressed by the province, is not going to get you very far.
“It’s a two-pronged approach. You need to get your staffing up to a level where your officers can have some proactive time … and then have your officers participate in collaborative partnerships.”
Basran said the city has laid out a plan that he believes makes it easy for the province to implement initiatives that will ease the pressure on local police.
“The feedback that I get from a large portion of our residents is that if we had done this resourcing plan first and not done the housing, homelessness and supports plan — we’d be further ahead,” he said.
“I’m comforted by the fact that [Griffiths says] we still need to deal with those underlying issues because there are people who still believe that enforcement is the base.”
Of the 56 member positions, 24 would be general duty officers, 10 would go to investigative units, six foot patrols, five school resource officers, four would go to general investigations and neighbourhood police and one would go to each of the airport, the Assertive Community Team (ACT) and the Assertive Outreach Team (AOT).
The report is not yet complete and will be given to council in full before budget deliberations take place on Dec. 12.