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How serious crimes, long hours impact the well-being of RCMP officers

Kamloops RCMP Supt. Brad Mueller.
December 09, 2017 - 10:00 AM

KAMLOOPS - Citizens rely on police to take care of them in emergency situations, but sometimes officers themselves need to be taken care of.

The Kamloops RCMP detachment is forecasting overtime costs of approximately $1.5 million this year for, not surprising considering the serious incidents that have happened in the city, especially in the second half of this year and many of them are coming off a long fire season. 

But there’s more to it than that. Kamloops RCMP Supt. Brad Mueller says men and women are working long hours on the front line, but also on the administrative side.

“What also sometimes gets forgotten is the back-end in terms of gathering all of the information and preparing it for court and disclosing it,” he says. “It’s very important that we have the resources to do that. It’s also very important… that we give our members the needed opportunity to recuperate, get some rest, enjoy their days off, unfettered time off, and then when they come back they’re refreshed and ready to go.”

Long hours and a number of serious incidents can have an impact on the mental well-being of RCMP officers.

Since the murder of Red Scorpions co-founder Konaam Shirzad in September, there have been several violent and serious incidents in Kamloops, largely due to a void left in the city’s drug trade.

Over the past two months, several incidents of shots fired have been reported throughout the city. On Oct. 23, two people were sent to hospital after being shot at a problem home on the North Shore.

On Oct. 27, part of the city was completely shut down while a tense standoff between a suspect and police took place for hours at the G & M Trailer Park off of the Yellowhead Highway.

Shane William Caron, 35, was arrested and charged with several offences including attempted murder for allegedly firing at police officers, however his father disputed much of what the RCMP released about the incident.

Kamloops RCMP told reporters after the incident that all officers who worked on that shift were given time off to recuperate.

On Nov. 4 an innocent bystander was injured by a stray bullet while in his Holt Street apartment. A 28-year-old man has been arrested and charged in connection to the incident.

The same day, an “armed and dangerous” suspect allegedly got into an altercation with a Kamloops RCMP officer, who discharged their gun when the suspect fled, police said. It was two days before RCMP located and arrested Michael Shawn Boyer, 41.

On Nov. 20, two homeowners in Kamloops were seriously injured during two separated attempted break-ins, according to police. The suspect, John Andrew Carlton Stark, is facing several charges including attempted murder and aggravated assault.

“Especially when you get a number of serious incidents in a short time frame, it becomes very taxing for our officers to deal with,” Mueller says. “Officer wellness and officer well-being is always a very high priority no matter what, but certainly when you get into situations like we’ve faced here recently… it’s very critical we have the ability to sufficiently resource those investigations.”

After many of these incidents, Mueller says, officers involved have been given critical incident debriefings for their own wellness. But the detachment also does operational debriefings, Mueller says.

“We sit down and review all the tactical decisions and operations, and from there lessons learned,” he says. “For next time if there’s things that we can learn from or do better, we do.”

But it’s serious incidents like these that really only get started once the situation is over.

A recent decision from the Supreme Court of Canada entrenched the rights of an accused person to a timely trial within 30 months. But that added deadline pressure to all the other competing needs and interests police face.

It’s had a huge impact on police, who used to be able to file disclosure incrementally before trial. Now, disclosure and court briefs must be filed before court proceedings begin.

“That’s a huge impact and a huge burden on how we have to deal with cases and how we have to manage them,” he says. “It’s very resource-intensive to do that.”

He says that’s why it’s important for the detachment to get 130 officers on the ground, up from 120 to 124, which Kamloops city council approved earlier this week.

Some active cases have to take a step down in priority sometimes, Mueller says, because of pressing matters and serious incidents combined with resources being stretched out, but he says police try to get to every incident they can, no matter how serious.

“Yes, sometimes there will be certain calls that are placed in priority, but we want to be able to provide some type of response that’s going to meet the community expectations and ensure that Kamloops remains a safe place to live.”

Mueller feels the detachment has earned the public’s trust and confidence in being able to handle the serious matters, while still attending to routine calls. He says the efforts put in his staff have helped ensure that.

“They’ve just done a tremendous job under some very difficult and trying circumstances,” Mueller says. “The tactical response, the follow up expertise we’ve delivered, the patience, it’s just been truly professional and… I’m very proud of our response and how we manage in these types of situations.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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