Ladysmith RCMP will look to expand its force in 2020 after town council approved increasing the number of law enforcement members budgeted for by the municipality.
Town council approved a recommendation received from the Protective Services Committee requesting more funding be committed to increasing Ladysmith’s authorized strength from seven to eight Mounties.
“Policing is an expensive commodity. I know that, you know that as a council and I’m sure the taxpayers know that,” said Staff Sgt. Ken Brissard at the Nov. 19 council meeting.
“With the addition of one resource that’s certainly going to help. Will it be enough moving forward over the next three to five years ? I guess that just depends on the population increase.”
The Ladysmith detachment currently has 13 members, with seven of those funded funded 70 per cent through the Town.
Five others funded exclusively by the province and one First Nation constable jointly 52 per cent by the federal government and 48 per cent by the B.C. government.
Mayor Aaron Stone noted the division on the municipal tax roll between the RCMP and the other programs and services.
“RCMP is taxed separately from the municipal tax roll so if you look at tax bill you have policing, library, municipal taxes,” he said.
“You theoretically could look at absorbing a three per cent tax through your municipal taxes but with all the costs pressures I would say the best way to move forward would be to assume that it would definitely increase the RCMP tax portion and then you’d have look at your municipal budget to see if you could absorb it there somewhere.”
According to the 2018 property tax insert sent out in May, 15 cents of every tax dollar that’s collected goes towards the cost of policing.
The Town’s portion of seven full time equivalent members is $950,979 including overtime.
The estimated costs of adding another Mountie brings the total to $1,083,988 and the tax increase will be spread across two years beginning in 2019.
Part of the conversation around the council table last week turned to the move toward 24 hour policing.
There is currently a period of time overnight when constables are only on-call and responding from their homes.
“As any manager, I’m concerned for my members’ well being. I can tell you know that in 29 years of policing, being on call isn’t healthy. It isn’t healthy in reducing crime as well because our reaction time is that much longer,” said Brissard, noting too that another additional member, ”not only is it a benefit on the crime-fighting side of the house, but on the health side of the house as well.”
Locally, the Criminal Code caseload was 64 files per member according to the most recent figures from 2016 while the provincial average was 61.
Brissard cited Qualicum Beach as a municipality with a similar size police force. That town funds eight RCMP members who in 2016 had half the caseload.
“Policing is a necessary evil, by no means do I think that enforcement is the only option. That’s almost, for the lack of a better term, the final straw. I’m a firm believer that we change behaviours vis-a-vis education and case in point I always use the example of impaired driving,” Brissard said.
Councillor Rob Johnson asked about increased demands on RCMP since the legalization of cannabis.
“It’s here but we haven’t seen an increase on the policing side of the house since it’s become legal,” Brissard said.
Not only is it a benefit on the crime-fighting side of the house, but on the health side of the house as well.”