Three West Shore mayors are pressing the B.C. government to boost the number of West Shore RCMP officers, saying the detachment is struggling due to years of provincial underfunding.
An RCMP staffing report found that West Shore RCMP is understaffed by at least nine officers. In a joint letter to the province, the mayors of View Royal, Colwood and Langford are asking it to pay for three new officers. The mayors say the province has not boosted resources for West Shore RCMP in more than a decade.
View Royal Mayor David Screech said the letter is being sent now in light of the provincial government’s order for Esquimalt and Victoria to hire six additional police officers. The Township of Esquimalt had previously turned down the Victoria Police Department’s budget request, but that was overruled by the provincial director of police services.
“We thought that if the province is requiring [more resources] for other police departments, they should also require it of themselves,” Screech said.
The province is responsible for funding policing in the smaller West Shore municipalities of Highlands and Metchosin, as well as the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations and other outlying areas.
It currently funds four general duty officers for West Shore RCMP, a staffing level that hasn’t changed since 2003.
Colwood Mayor Rob Martin said the funding disparity is even more acute when you look at calls for service in various areas of the West Shore.
The province pays for nine per cent of the West Shore RCMP budget, but Mounties spend about 19 per cent of their time in Highlands, Metchosin or First Nation areas.
By comparison, Colwood pays 20 per cent of the West Shore RCMP budget and just under 18 per cent of calls for service are in that municipality. “What’s happening is the province has downloaded the cost to the municipalities,” Martin said.
Langford Mayor Stew Young said that as the West Shore has rapidly grown, the three municipalities have paid for more police resources while the province lags behind.
View Royal, Langford and Colwood have agreed to pay for nine new officers, but still want the province to pay for an additional three.
Premier John Horgan supports the mayors’ request for more police resources, according to a March 29 letter he sent to Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.
“The rapid growth of population on the West Shore is also well documented and thus the need for more officers is also increasing rapidly,” wrote Horgan, adding that as the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca, he can attest to the need for more officers. “Therefore, please accept this letter in support of the mayors’ request that more RCMP be added on the West Shore.”
Farnworth told reporters Wednesday that he’s aware of the premier’s letter, but no decision has been made on increasing West Shore RCMP resources. Farnworth said he has yet to receive the RCMP staffing report on West Shore RCMP, but once he reviews it, he’ll consider several options.
They include adding more provincially funded RCMP officers, redeploying RCMP officers from other detachments or asking the RCMP to send more recruits from the training centre in Regina.
“The premier has written a letter. There’s a process about how these determinations are made, and that applies to every community and it’s made on the basis of the proper resources and how they’re allocated,” Farnworth said.
The understaffing means West Shore Mounties are spending only 13.5 per cent of their time doing crime-prevention work, the mayors write in their letter — far short of the 25 to 35 per cent recommended in RCMP guidelines.
Buoyed by the premier’s support, Martin said he’s hopeful West Shore RCMP will get the resources the detachment desperately needs.