Human error not officer shortage cause slowed response to seniors' home scare, says Vernon's top cop - InfoNews

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Human error not officer shortage cause slowed response to seniors' home scare, says Vernon's top cop

Vernon/ North Okanagan RCMP Supt. Shawna Baher
September 06, 2019 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - The North Okanagan's top cop says her detachment's slow response to an incident where a knife-wielding man attempted to enter a Vernon seniors' home was a dispatch error and not linked to a shortage of officers at the RCMP.

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP Supt. Shawna Baher said within three minutes of her officers receiving the call they arrived at the seniors' home, and had they received the call earlier they would have responded straight away.

"We rely on dispatch," Supt. Baher said. "It's a hand in hand relationship, but people are human, in this instance, it was an error, it shouldn't have gone the direction it did."

The incident took place Aug. 14 at the Vernon Restholm when a man brandishing a knife started kicking at the doors, demanding to be let in. While frightened staff made several 911 calls, the RCMP did not arrive on the scene until over 30 minutes after the first call was made.

When officers arrived at the scene they arrested the suspect, but the incident left a worrying question as to why it took so long for the RCMP to respond?

E- comm 911, the company that answer the original 911 calls confirmed all the calls were immediately answered and transferred to the Kelowna dispatch centre.

"(The 911 call) should have been dispatched at a higher priority but it wasn't, and (the dispatch department) are taking the approaches to address those issues with the dispatches," Supt. Baher said.

Baher explained when someone dials 911 the call goes to the dispatch centre in Kelowna who prioritizes calls depending on the level of importance.

The calls from the Vernon Restholm were not given a high enough priority Baher said.

"Unfortunately people are human, and people make decisions... and in hindsight, they are not the best decisions, in this instance. It wasn't the best decision as far as I'm concerned and  ... we've asked them to address it with their dispatches and they have," Baher said.

For security reasons Baher won't disclose how many officers were on duty at the time but said the incident is in no way a reflection of her detachment being understaffed.

"We have a lot of days that are very busy and we go from call to call to call and that's not an issue, but what we count on is the proper dispatching of us to make sure that we're going to the emergency calls as needed," she said. "In this instance, it wasn't dispatched so, therefore, members couldn't go because they didn't know about it."

While in 2016 the City of Vernon was paying for 48 officers, leaving concerns the RCMP were dangerously understaffed, Baher said the situation now is drastically different.

As of June 30, the RCMP billed the City for 55.91 officers and Baher said she had "ample members" working in Vernon.

Supt. Baher said the detachment has enough officers and if they get busier and need more she would ask the City for the funding to cover it.

"I was as upset as anybody (over the incident at the seniors' home) and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. It's not about hiding anything, it's about getting the truth out there it's about correcting issues and had it been our issue I would have been the first to admit it," she said.


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