Revelstoke council approved adding one extra police officer to the local RCMP detachment, following a request from Staff-Sgt. Kurt Grabinsky.
The decision will bring the number of general duty police officers in Revelstoke to 12, from 11. It will cost the city $120,000.
Council approved the request during its first special budget meeting on Thursday, Nov. 19.
In an interview, Grabinsky said the extra officer was needed because the RCMP was unable to keep up with the call volume the detachment received.
He said that despite the fact the crime rate is down, the detachment is actually receiving more calls on matters that aren’t necessarily criminal, like missing persons and mental health issues.
“Overall, the crime rate has dropped nationally, but our call volume is steadily rising,” Grabinsky said. “We get more calls all the time, but we’re not getting the high level of crime stat.”
As well, many police files are becoming more complex and require more office work. As an example, he said an impaired driving investigation can take 6–8 hours to complete. The three recent child pornography cases the RCMP investigated took on average six weeks to investigate and prepare for court. That means police are spending a lot more time at their desks, and not on the street.
As well, some officers are off due to injuries and other medical issues.
“When we have that, it leaves us in a situation where we are very short,” Grabinsky said.
The detachment was hit hard when Sgt. Kim Hall died suddenly earlier this year. She was only just replaced by a new corporal earlier this month. At its worst, the detachment was down to seven officers, Grabinsky said.
Grabinsky’s request was supported by the city’s security committee, said councillor Trevor English, who chairs the committee.
“We looked at four other communities and we feel like we’re understaffed here based on what morale looks like, as well as what scheduling is like for the members at the detachment,” he said.
Grabinsky told council that they looked at using Commissionaires to do finger printing, but that proved not possible. “The only way we can truly respond and provide a service to the community that we expect to provide is by increasing by one or two more police officers,” he said. “We cannot dedicate these investigations to civilians.”
Council agreed that hiring an extra police officer was a priority and voted to add it to the budget. How that extra cost is covered remains to be seen.
“It appears to be a top priority so we should put it in the budget, and we’ll find either savings or do what we have to do going forward,” said councillor Connie Brothers. “From the principled point of view, around the table we’re looking at this as a priority so we need to ensure it goes in.”
The city spent $1,250,753 on the RCMP in 2014. This year, it budgeted $1,260,000, not including $120,000 for the 12th officer.
The number of officers the city pays for doesn’t include highway traffic police and a few others that work out of the detachment.
The funding is now part of the budget, however it will not be released until the budget is approved.