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Premier's funding plan for RCMP welcomed by experts

Provincial money will help fill long-standing vacancies in communities with fewer then 5,000 residents
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RCMP officer staffing goal for B.C. is 2,602. TIMES COLONIST

Premier David Eby took an “appropriate step” by announcing $230 million over three years to bolster the RCMP numbers in B.C. and to address different areas of crime, says Neil Boyd, professor emeritus with Simon Fraser University’s criminology department.

Recruitment in policing in Canada and in other jurisdictions has become a challenge, Boyd said Thursday.

Stress and burnout among officers has made it challenging to attract applicants for the job, he said. “So focusing on that seems a wise move, especially in rural areas.”

Provincial money will help fill long-standing vacancies in communities with fewer then 5,000 residents, Eby said. It will also go to provincially funded regional RCMP units to hire enough officers to meet their overall staffing goal of 2,602.

Money will also be used to bring in officers to work in specialist areas, such as major crimes and sexual exploitation of children.

Funds will be allocated to the RCMP starting on April 1. Planning with the RCMP to finalize priorities starts right away, the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said.

Concerns around safety, random attacks and street crime have been heard from around the province.

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said community safety and security are top of mind for residents.

He welcomed the funding, saying it will not only help add to officer numbers in Nanaimo, but in nearby small towns as well.

“As a medium-sized municipality with more than 102,000 people, we will benefit from the regional resource, B.C. Highway Patrol and provincial specialized investigative team increases, which means faster response times for people in trouble, for businesses in need and for reviving public confidence in our public-safety system.”

Krog said the difficulty in filling vacancies is not new.

“We only budget for 95 per cent of our actual policing costs because you can never get enough officers even if you have budgeted for them. That’s been true for some time.”

Boyd is particularly pleased to see Eby focus on addressing recommendations from the Cullen Commission, which examined money laundering in B.C.

Despite the importance of dealing with money laundering, “we are not really in a place where we have the resources to deal with that kind of crime properly,” he said.

Dealing with corruption, money laundering and cyber crime, “that’s something people have to be trained for.”

As well, legislation allowing civil forfeiture of unexplained wealth, a recommendation coming out of the Cullen Commission, is coming next year. It is focused on targeting the proceeds of crime.

“If there’s going to be some success in dealing with that kind of issue, you’re going to need police who are trained to be able to assemble evidence, to be able to move forward in court and establish what the norms will be,” Boyd said.

“We really need to work with people who understand the business, how this corruption takes place, and who are able to access data.

“There are police who have the skill set, but not that many and it is clear that we need a lot more in that realm.”

Our digitally driven society sees people bombarded daily with attempts to defraud them by phone or via email, Boyd said.

The nature of crime has changed and society should think differently about its response and ensure there are the resources needed, he said.

Robert Farrer, director for the Pacific and the North Region for the National Police Federation, said: “It is fantastic to see that kind of funding go into the provincial police force in B.C.”

When it comes to filling vacancies and hiring, he said that is something facing all police forces in Canada. “It’s certainly a competitive market.”

But he added: “It can be done. There has be a larger push into recruitment.”

A number of factors, including the influence of social media and finding the right people to work in remote areas, all affect hiring, he said.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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