By this fall, RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager hopes to have a new advisory committee and a new task force in operation.
“First and foremost is the establishment of a Community Policing Advisory Committee,” said De Jager. That committee, made up of elected officials, residents, business leaders and stakeholders, will assist in setting priorities and addressing continuing issues.
“As part of that, the arm of that advisory committee is our Community Response and Enforcement Team,” he said.
The team will have a wide mandate, focusing on mental health, homelessness, problem locations, traffic concerns, youth and overall engagement.
“That is going to be an exciting change to the way we do business and that is going to drive a lot of the visibility and engagement in the community,” said De Jager. He describes it as a multi-function team, able to work as a group on projects, or specific issues, using the individual members’ skills.
To start, he’s planning on four to five members on the team, including a supervisor, possibly two traffic members, a youth member and a mental health representative.
De Jager is looking to reduce the number of calls officers attend that don’t result in chargeable offences. According to the report he delivered to Penticton city council this week, 64 per cent of the calls in Penticton fall into the non-chargeable category.
“That’s where we have to ask the question is the person dressed like me the right person to be going to that file,” said De Jager.
A range of occurrences come under that heading, from unsubstantiated calls to requests for assistance or prevention and calls that fall under the mental health act. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of those calls has risen almost 40 per cent.
“If we can reduce the calls for service that are taking up time, we can focus more on the prolific offenders and the actual chargeable offences,” said De Jager. That’s where the community team comes in, with actions taking a number of forms, from the whole team tackling the overall issue, to the mental health officer working with repeat individuals to get them help.
“There are different programs out there,” said De Jager. “That is why we are in discussions with Interior Health, about what is going to be the most effective model.”
That may go as far as a mental health nurse riding with the member and starting to engage with some of the more frequent clients.
“That gets to the whole point of reducing calls for service. If we have frequent people, that starts to get them the help they need then it reduces the calls for service and that is a good thing for the community and a good thing for the police,” said De Jager. “And it is a good thing for that individual. We are getting help to them.”
De Jager said work has begun on assembling the team. He expects to have it in place by this fall so partnerships can start to build through the fall and winter, which is traditionally a less busy time. Coming into spring and summer 2018, the whole team should be up and running with programs in place.