Kamloops councillor urges caution over increasing bylaw officer powers | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops councillor urges caution over increasing bylaw officer powers


The City of Kamloops should be careful about what it wishes for while it lobbies the provincial government to deputize bylaw officers.

That according to Coun. Nancy Bepple who was responding to the continued push to give more power to the bylaw officers in Kamloops, now called Community Service Officers.

"I think it's fantastic work going down to the BC legislature. They need to know that Kamloops is here and that we mean business, but I think we need to use caution going forward that if we have these powers, we use them very cautiously," she said.

The City's plan to have bylaw officers recognized as peace officers started almost four years ago when the department was overhauled.

READ MORE: Kamloops bylaw department on the way to 'peace officer' status

Bylaw officers and RCMP detachment cell guards, previously separate jobs, were rolled into the same position: community service officers. New recruits, and current employees at the time, were required to take a fitness test.

While the overhaul presented its own challenges with the City's union, staff said in 2023 the plan was always meant to give officers more authority as peace officers once the province overhauls the Police Act.

Multiple city councillors were in Victoria recently to lobby ministers on multiple issues including Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth to discuss the potential for peace officer status.

Bepple said peace officers could be allowed to carry firearms, which may not be something desired in Kamloops. She said council needs to keep in mind "there are risks" to the increased authority. She went on to say there are oversight bodies for police, for instance, but there isn't for bylaw officers.

READ MORE: City won't say how much it paid former Kamloops bylaw officers

Indigenous people make up a disproportionate number of people homeless in the community and people within the justice system, she said.

"There's also a need to make sure the people affected have voices in the process," Bepple said. "A really good example in our community would be Indigenous people and having them at the table to decide how we use (community service officers) as peace officers."

There's no clear timeline on changes to the Police Act nor when, or if, Kamloops bylaw officers could see their authority increased. They are, however, working more closely with local police as the department is changed through the move to community service officers.

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