Kamloops politicians say no to police defunding, yes to body cameras

Kamloops politicians say no to police defunding, yes to body cameras

The city is evolving bylaw officer roles toward community safety

  • Jun. 10, 2020 3:40 p.m.

-Kamloops This Week

Kamloops politicians have no interest in defunding the police — the city’s single-largest expenditure — despite calls sparked by the George Floyd protests.

But they are in favour of having local Mounties equipped with body cameras.

Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said calls to defund police are coming from areas served by sizeable municipal police forces, largely in major American cities.

Two Toronto councillors have called for defunding of the Toronto Police Service by 10 per cent, redistributing the money cut to community resources.

Kamloops’ policing budget has grown by more than that number in recent years.

Christian told KTW whenever the city solicits feedback on spending priorities, the public has consistently over the last decade prioritized uniformed services: police, fire and bylaws.

Defunding, he said, would result in increased response times.

“If you’re in any danger, there’s priority one [calls] and it takes somewhere in minutes to get there,” Christian said.

“If we defund the police, it’s going to take x-number plus more. I know for priority three calls, the last time [Kamloops RCMP Supt.] Syd [Lecky] and I were doing an open house in North Kamloops, it was 75 minutes to respond to priority three calls. Maybe it’s going to be an hour and a half. That’s the result.”

Councillors Dale Bass and Mike O’Reilly sit alongside the mayor on the city’s community services committee, which deals directly with RCMP and oversees issues like crime and poverty.

Neither are in favour of defunding the police.

Bass said the Car 40 program, a partnership with Interior Health that pairs mental-health professionals with police officers, is making a difference and council has discussed expanding the program.

In addition, Bass said, the police are working with city bylaws to address street issues.

“It’s never enough, but it is a step in the right direction,” Bass said.

City of Kamloops budget and planning manager David Hallinan said the city’s police budget consists of the RCMP and city support staff.

In 2019, it amounted to 12 per cent of the city’s overall budget and remains the single-largest budget line item — budgeted at $31.7 million in 2019 — followed by fire services, streets and transit.

Kamloops’ police budgets have risen in recent years. From 2015 to 2019, the budget increased by a total of 14.5 per cent, or $4.2 million.

The budget was $30.5 million in 2018, $29.2 million in 2017, $28.1 million in 2016 and $27.5 million in 2015.

The city notes, however, actual dollars spent toward police services has been consistently under budget, due to staffing fluctuations.

READ MORE: History of systemic racism between RCMP and First Nations must be addressed: B.C. chief

Corporate Services director Kathy Humphrey said Kamloops is different from other cities in that it does not have direct control over staffing because it has the RCMP, not a municipal police force.

The idea of a municipal police force in Kamloops has been raised on occasion at city hall, though it is often disregarded due to cost. Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum staked his last election campaign on that very issue and media reports show cost to transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force — still in the works — is estimated at $19 million.

Humphrey said that ongoing restructuring of the city’s bylaws department has been to support the police.

“Lots of the calls to defund the police are to take the funding out of enforcement and into community support,” Humphrey said.

“That’s kind of what we’ve been doing as we reallocate, not reallocating funding, but reallocating resources that have been going into bylaws and changing up what they do.”

Community and protective services director Byron McCorkell explained the city is evolving bylaw officer roles toward community safety, with increased emphasis on education over enforcement.

Working with the RCMP

“Our belief is that everyone wants to be doing the right thing and so we’re going to help them do that,” McCorkell said.

“I think it is starting to show its success. We’ve got a lot of active files where we’re engaged with people and we’re helping them do the right thing. I think that’s been successful.”

In addition, he said, the city is working more closely than ever with RCMP. Bylaws staff are now security cleared to work with police officers, touching base with watch command and aware of issues in the community. As well, police are at the table when it comes to street outreach.

“I think we’re evolving there,” McCorkell said. “It has nothing to do with this defunding conversation, but more about getting our operations aligned. What we’ve created here is community protective services, where we’re bringing all of our agencies together in a much more concerted effort to provide a more holistic approach to things, not just an individual approach. We’ve had great response from the RCMP.

“Superintendent Lecky and his staff have been very easy to work with and definitely part of that idea. I think we’re making good steps forward. We’ve got more to go, but it’s been positive so far.”

READ MORE: Teach Black history to fight racism, starting in elementary school: B.C. students

The aftermath of George Floyd’s death

In the wake of the Floyd death in Minneapolis and subsequent protests that have taken place around the world, including in Kamloops, the mayor suggested better training and equipment for police would be more appropriate than defunding.

Mandatory use of body cameras has also been called for amid the protests and Christian said he supports equipping some officers with body cameras. He said some would not need such equipment and the costs would be born by the city.

“I think that the public would be surprised to see the result of body cameras on police and understand the kind of difficult situations they go into, in terms of particularly some domestic disputes,” Christian said.

“They are very, very nasty situations and whatever way you come out of it, somebody is not going to be happy. I think it would be enlightening for the public to see what some of these circumstances, in terms of dealing with impaired and irrational people are like, when you’re actually trying to protect people from themselves.”

Bass and O’Reilly also supported equipping police with body cameras. Bass said it disturbs her that evidence of police-civilian interactions, including arrests, relies on people with smartphone cameras. She said body cameras would improve transparency and accuracy when issues should arise. O’Reilly said now is the time to discuss the issue, as negotiations about unionization of the RCMP continue.

READ MORE: Murder charge upgraded in George Floyd case, 3 other cops charged

“It’s hard to slip those things in after the fact,” he said.

“We’re building a new foundation for the RCMP in Canada as we speak. Now is the time to be doing that.”

Kamloops’ police budget by the numbers:

• 2019: $31.7 million, $1.2 million more than 2018, equating to a four per cent increase;

• 2018: $30.5 million, $1.3 million more than 2017, equating to a four and a half per cent increase;

• 2017: $29.2 million, $1.1 million more than 2016, equating to a four per cent increase;

• 2016: $28.1 million, $600,000 more than 2015, equating to a two per cent increase;

• 2015: $27.5 million.

— with a file from the Canadian Press

Police

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
COVID-19 exposures confirmed at two Kelowna schools

Pearson Road Elementary, Rutland Senior Secondary confirm one case of the virus at each school

(Courtesy of West Kelowna Fire Rescue)
West Kelowna structure fire results in death of pets, injured firefighter

Crews arrived at the Ponderosa Rd. home to find the rear of the building engulfed in flames

Lisa Jilg is pictured at her store with signs requesting the donation of items for those struggling with mental health challenges, and those experiencing homelessness. (Contributed)
‘He just wanted to be accepted’: Okanagan mother opens up about son’s fatal overdose

Judgment toward those with mental health challenges needs to stop, says West Kelowna mother

Kit-Kat is an a foster home with AlleyCats.
AlleyCats Okanagan pet of the week: Take a break with this Kit-Kat

Kit-Kat is looking for a calm home where she is the only pet

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

The man currently being sought by Oliver RCMP in connection to an assault and robbery at the BC Cannabis Store in Oliver. If you know the identity of the man, the RCMP would like to know. (RCMP)
South Okanagan police looking for man accused in robbery and assault at pot shop

The man allegedly assaulted an employee at the BC Cannabis Store

(Government of B.C.)
Protesters gather in front of the Vernon Law Courts in the final week of the trial of Curtis Sagmoen, Wednesday, Dec. 18. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Sagmoen to enter plea for assault charge involving North Okanagan RCMP

The offence allegedly took place on Oct. 29 in or near Spallumcheen

School bus fees are being charged to all riders in the Vernon School District. (Courtesy photo)
Parents pressure Vernon school board to curb bus fee hike

More than 1,200 signatures on petition against $200 rider fees, to be discussed at board meeting

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Brooke Drive interchange is part of the Chase Four-Laning Project currently being worked on by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure image)
Second phase of Highway 1 four-laning in Chase expected to be tendered soon

Work already underway for Chase West phase of project

Shuswap Adventure Girl Sarah Tokarek has a particular passion for hiking trails around Blind Bay and the South Shuswap. (Contributed)
Shuswap mom helps others find their own outdoor adventures

Sarah Tokarek is Shuswap Adventure Girl, an online trail guide for the region

Backcountry skiers are dwarfed by the mountains as they make their way along a mountain ridge near McGillivray Pass Lodge located in the southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. Avalanche Canada has issued a special warning to people who use the backcountry in the mountains of western Alberta and eastern British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Avalanche Canada special warning for mountains in western Alberta, eastern B.C.

Avalanche Canada also says everyone in a backcountry party needs essential rescue gear

Most Read