Petition calls for partial defunding of Kelowna RCMP - InfoNews

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Petition calls for partial defunding of Kelowna RCMP

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August 13, 2020 - 5:30 PM

A Change.org petition calling for a $2.5 million cut in funding to the Kelowna RCMP, if supported by city council, could result in the loss off 14 police officers.

That would be a sizeable hit to a police detachment that a recent study said needs to hire 56 new police officers and 28 civilians over the next five years.

READ MORE: New report says dozens more RCMP officers are needed in Kelowna

The petition was launched by Courtney Christensen two weeks ago and had gained almost 1,500 signatures by Aug. 12. It came out shortly after Kelowna city council allocated $8.1 million in surplus money from 2019 into various funds, including $2.5 million to the RCMP.

“We have already had a protest calling to defund the police after numerous wellness checks have resulted in citizens being assaulted,” Christensen wrote on Change.org. “Also 40% of sexual assault claims have been dismissed the past two years, which shows that the RCMP aren’t preventing crimes or solving them, and we are not safe.”

Christensen wasn't available to expand on that, but the wellness check comment likely refers to a video of UBCO student Mona Wang being dragged down a hallway by an RCMP officer. That is currently under investigation but is the only such incident following a wellness check in Kelowna.

Another woman has filed a lawsuit against the same RCMP officer but that was not as a result of a wellness check.

READ MORE: Second woman files lawsuit claiming she was assaulted by Kelowna RCMP constable

Similarly, the claim of the 40 per cent of sexual assault claims being dismissed likely refers to an investigation into a large number of “unfounded” sexual assault charges.

While it initially looked like a high number of sexual assault claims were dismissed, an investigation found that almost half had been given an incorrect code and many others were found to actually be unfounded. Twelve cases are being reviewed.

READ MORE: Here’s how mistakes were made on 62 per cent of Kelowna RCMP’s sexual assault cases

The petition does talk about other needs in the city that the surplus could address, such as homelessness and the opioid overdose crisis.

But, the petition is called: “Stop 2.5 million dollars going to the RCMP” and Christensen suggests the money will go to “unionizing the police which would make it almost impossible to fire the officers or hold them accountable in any way, if they were assaulting or murdering citizens.”

There's no evidence of that. Christensen did not respond to a request for an interview.

So, why is the city wanting to give the RCMP $2.5 million in funding from surplus?

The RCMP budget was set at $34.7 million for 2020 and included approval of seven new RCMP officers at a cost of $179,600 per year, or about half of the $2.5 million the petition wants to cut.

The City of Kelowna got just over $4 million last year as its share of gambling revenues from two casinos in the city. It uses that money every year to help fund the RCMP.

Since COVID-19 has shut down all casinos, and there are no immediate plans to re-open them, that means the city has a shortfall in funding the police this year that the transfer to surplus is meant to address.

Out of the $8.1 million total in surplus, $2.5 million was put into public/private partnerships. The rest of the money is going to things like land sales ($700,000), slope stability ($550,000), accumulated surplus, ($513,748) major systems ($400,000) and others.

City council is under no obligation to observe such a petition. Last year it ignored a 14,000-name petition that opposed a supportive housing project in Rutland.

READ MORE: Kelowna mayor shrugs off McCurdy Road supportive housing petition

Even so, it seems that Christensen has already accomplished her goal in starting the petition.

“I am creating this petition as a way to spread awareness and to show the city council that this is not the best way to spend the surplus and it would be better spent invested in community programs,” she wrote on Change.org.

The petition can be viewed here.


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