Grand Forks RCMP is understaffed and according to Sgt. Darryl Peppler, things could get even worse.
Now at 70 per cent capacity, staffing levels at the detachment could drop to 60 per cent in the near future.
“We’re no different than most detachments throughout the province,” he said, adding that some are policing at under 50 per cent capacity. The detachment is meanwhile under pressure to share some of its personnel with another squad where Peppler said staffing levels are even lower.
Under the proposed arrangement, a Grand Forks member would fill in for squad Mounties who take time off.
“We’ll be stretched thin, but we’ll still be able to do our job,” he said.
Peppler attributed the shortfall to “a perfect storm” of spending priorities, bad press and complications thrust by the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, he said the provincial government, which pays for Grand Forks RCMP and most other rural detachments in B.C., “hasn’t made strong investments in police” under both Premier John Horgan’s NDP and the BC Liberals.
“We can look at the negative image police have received in the last couple of years,” added.
Peppler pointed to a negative perception of police that has led to a slump in national recruitment levels. On top of that, the pandemic has disrupted the training of the recruits that have signed on.
He and MLA Roly Russell said they met last week to talk about these and other issues with Rob Farrer, a director at the National Police Federation, the union that represents Mounties.
Speaking at his constituency office in Grand Forks, Russell said they spoke at length about “the challenges in keeping our community safe with the numbers they do have.”
Russell said he wondered if enough recruits were being trained to replace retiring officers, expressing concern for Mounties he said were facing “burnout during COVID.”
The provincial government pays for 70 per cent of RCMP costs in cities and unincorporated municipalities of less than 5,000 people, according to B.C.’s Police Act and the Provincial Police Service Agreement. Peppler said B.C. Mounties will see a significant pay increase starting in November.