Social issues call for tiered approach to policing

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
December 6, 2018 - 5:00am Updated: December 6, 2018 - 11:56am
Image Credit: CFJC Today

AS DEMANDS ON POLICING become more and more onerous, it’s obvious some new ways of doing things are needed.

Under a pilot program in Toronto, for example, first-time shoplifters won’t be charged because it’s a low priority for police.

Here at home, RCMP and City Hall agree — traditional policing isn’t always the first and best answer when it comes to situations involving things like opioids and homelessness. It’s a matter both of what works best for people, and what’s most cost-effective.

That’s where re-vamping law enforcement into a tiered policing system makes sense.

Kamloops Coun. Mike O’Reilly thinks the City should look into hiring special constables as an intermediate-level enforcement tool, kind of halfway between bylaws officers and police.

They would be paid more than regular bylaws officers but less that RCMP members. Given the multi-million-dollar cost of policing, it could be a major saving. O’Reilly raised the issue at a budget meeting after seeing a report to Kelowna City council from former RCMP superintendent Bill McKinnon, who recommended that Kelowna form a committee on the social impacts of crime.

That report, and O’Reilly’s interest in special constables, is bang on with the direction Kamloops needs to go in the longer run. As Supt. Syd Lecky acknowledged in responding to O’Reilly’s interest, police are “an agency of last resort.”

McKinnon’s report proposes upgrading some bylaws officers to peace officer status. It’s called a Level 3 and would take significant training but would be a cost-effective way of increasing community safety.

It’s not in the City’s immediate budget plans but that might change the next time the City faces the prospect of hiring more police officers.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at [email protected].