Castlegar RCMP continue to operate at reduced capacity, but the detachment commander is hopeful things will improve soon.
Sgt. Monty Taylor told city council this week that only 10 officers are working at the moment, whereas a full complement is 16. He said they have been filling shifts through overtime and reserve constables.
Taylor said the staff shortage is the result of vacancies as well as officers on sick leave and the temporary closure of the RCMP’s depot training academy due to COVID-19.
He said that within a few months, the RCMP will be back to graduating about 20 new constables per week, but at the moment recruitment is difficult.
“It’s a rough ride for the time being, but we will be on the upswing,” he said. “We possibly have a recruit on the way and a member from another detachment.”
Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff called the situation “unsustainable” and asked if the city could lobby on the local detachment’s behalf: “Can we write to someone and say we need more members?”
Taylor said he appreciated the support but “we have a lid on things. Safety is not jeopardized.” Taylor said they expect a couple of officers to return to work soon, bringing their ranks back to 12.
He also confirmed the crime reduction unit has been “wearing multiple hats” by responding to routine calls in addition to their regular duties.
Councillor Dan Rye asked if the proposed establishment of a municipal police force in Surrey might result in some RCMP officers being transferred to Castlegar and elsewhere.
Taylor replied that the new municipal force will likely try to hire as many Mounties as possible, but those officers will be given priority when seeking transfers elsewhere. “Some may have Castlegar on their wish list,” he said.
Taylor added that the Surrey situation would not result in a slowdown of new officers being turned out by the RCMP academy, as due to retirements and attrition, “they need to be in full swing.”
Mayor Kirk Duff said the city brought up RCMP staffing as an issue with the provincial government during the recent Union of BC Municipalities conference.
On another matter, Taylor said since BC adopted the use of vaccine passports last week, local police have had a couple of complaints involving businesses with “unruly guests.”
Although police have the authority to hand out fines ranging from $200 to $2,000, so far they have only issued verbal warnings.
“Fortunately, other than the two complaints, it seems to be going okay in Castlegar,” he said.