April 20, 2017 - 6:30 PM
PENTICTON - The South Okanagan’s recently opened prison is starting to tax police resources in the region, regional district directors heard today.
The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen Board of Directors heard Oliver RCMP are seeing an increase in assault files and other administrative duties since the Okanagan Correctional Centre opened its doors in January of this year.
Staff Sgt. Kirsten Marshall told directors at today’s regional district board meeting, April 20, the assault files were related to incidents at the new prison.
While not all files were attended by Oliver RCMP, she said the calls took Oliver detachment members away from their regular beats.
Marshall said the detachment was also seeing a significant increase in information checks and calls to the jail for DNA and fingerprinting, resulting in an increase in administrative duties for the Oliver detachment.
She said reservists were currently available once a week to help provide the additional manpower now, but couldn’t be guaranteed in the future.
Naramata director Karla Kozakevich asked about a business case put forward by the Penticton RCMP in a bid to request two additional officers for the Oliver detachment.
“If the prison is consistently pulling officers away from Oliver and the rural area are you pursuing the province to provide new officers?” Kozakevich said.
Marshall said the detachment had made the case for two years running, but the province was waiting for hard facts, which the department is now gathering.
Oliver director Ron Hovanes also noted nothing had yet come of the business case presented to the province.
“Our small detachment, like most others, because of human resource issues, has not been running at a full complement, as it is right now, so they are understaffed as it is,” Hovanes said, adding he had heard once the prison was fully operational there could be up to 400 to 500 files a year, in a detachment where that was a single officer’s workload for the entire year.
“We’re pursuing a conversation with public safety as we speak because this has just come to us, so that’s a real concern,” he said, adding he held on to a letter from the province promising additional policing support.
Hovanes also said the prison was providing a great economic boost for the local economy, but understood how its presence in the region could be a real concern for local police.
Marshall said the prison, which is not yet running at full capacity, has already generated 58 files for the Oliver detachment.
“Our mitigating factor has been the reservists... but if we didn’t have the reservists somebody else would be up there to do all that work and I can only see it increasing,” she said.
Penticton Director Konanaz expressed concerns about where prisoners were going once released.
Marshall said no one was tracking the inmates' destinations once released from Okanagan Correctional Centre, as they were then free to do as they pleased.
Penticton Director Andrew Jakubeit noted inmates are provided with a bus ticket to their hometown.
The board was also introduced to the Penticton RCMP’s new detachment commander, Superintendent Ted De Jager, who assumes his position in Penticton next weekend.
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