More officers won't translate into better policing in Penticton, says city's top cop | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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More officers won't translate into better policing in Penticton, says city's top cop

Penticton RCMP detachment Supt. Ted De Jager is pictured in this file photo.
August 24, 2018 - 5:30 PM

PENTICTON - Policing in Penticton is all about managing expectations, according to the commander of the Penticton RCMP detachment.

Supt. Ted De Jager was responding to queries about the RCMP’s ability to answer calls throughout the detachment’s catchment area, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Penticton could have a 100 officers, and we’d be all over the place and stepping over each other, but from a stewardship perspective, I don’t know that would be such a good idea,” De Jager says, adding, “we’re not going to eliminate crime, but we need to target the ones who are doing the majority of it. That’s the police role.”

Penticton’s city budget pays for 46 police officers to service the city itself. Provincial funding makes up the salaries of 12 more officers who look after rural Penticton, which includes the communities of Naramata, West Bench, Penticton Indian Band, Okanagan Falls, Kaleden and points in between.

Because Penticton is now an integrated detachment, De Jager says officers can be deployed wherever most needed. He says 100 members make up the law enforcement team between Summerland and Princeton, made up of police officers and civilian personnel.

De Jager says — without getting into the specifics at the Penticton detachment — roughly half of a police department is made up of general duty or patrol officers. Those personnel are spread out over four watches. There are also non-responding police personnel, and highway patrol officers. 

The decentralized regional detachment, along with regional teams like the Targeted Enforcement Unit and the General Investigations Unit means even if patrol staffing numbers are low at any given time, other teams are on the job who can respond anywhere in the region if needed.

“We’re very fluid that way in an emergency,” De Jager says.

“What are your expectations? Your bike gets stolen in the middle of the night and you pick up the phone, expecting a police officer to roll to your door? Well then, we need about 40 more cops,” he says.

"If your expectation is, well, my bike got stolen from my front porch last night, I need a file number for insurance and I’d like to get it back. I’ve got video, and my neighbour saw this guy got plates and stuff, well then give us a call and we’ll come,” he says, adding the detachment always responds to calls.

“I get frustrated when I hear these complaints about calling the police and they don’t show up. If someone calls but doesn’t give dispatch their name or location, we’re not going to come, but if you leave your name and address, we’ll respond. It’s part of our service standard. If there isn’t a response, we have to know about it,” he says.

Impaired or domestic violence incidents may pull officers off patrol duty for large portions of their shift, as can investigations into fraud cases and other crimes. De Jager says police now have the option of working out of their cruisers.

“With computers in the vehicles, our officers have complete access. The technology is leaps and bounds above what it was 10 or 20 years ago,” he says, adding it isn’t always convenient to work in the field, and when that happens, other members working the shift in other capacities can fill the void if something happens to unduly tie up officers on patrol.

“General duty officers are busy, especially in summer. They have to balance their priorities,” he says.

De Jager also noted the most recent crime statistics in Penticton indicate the city’s biggest crime category, theft from auto, continued to rise in the last quarter, up seven per cent over the same period last year.

“I thought I was going to win this one, but it just keeps going up. The average person has to understand, if they want us to respond quickly, we have to be able to stop responding to our biggest single crime type, theft from auto, he says.


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