“I would like to see our numbers increased by at least 20 per cent. But you know these are moving numbers, right. We assess service level every year.” — Supt. Kara Triance

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The head of Kelowna RCMP says the detachment is lacking about 20 per cent of the officers needed in the growing Okanagan city.

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And Supt. Kara Triance told Postmedia that other communities in Southeastern BC are also facing shortages when if comes to policing levels.

She said while there are unfilled positions in her region, other policing agencies across the country are facing the same problem with their vacancies.

“I would like to see our numbers increased by at least 20 per cent. But you know these are moving numbers, right. We assess service level every year,” she said. “We are not at fully staffed levels, and we are on par with the rest of the division when it comes to staffing levels.”

Postmedia obtained a copy of an email sent to Kelowna RCMP management by a “burnt-out” officer. The writer said he’s “extremely tried, and frankly burnt out” due to staffing shortages.

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After a Mountie was stabbed on the job in Kelowna last month and another recently injured “you would think those situations would of triggered some sort of change, but no, here we are still at dangerously low staffing levels,” the email said.

The officer said they were thinking of resigning because “nothing ever changes” and “my own mental health is worth more than this detachment.”

The Mountie cited an internal staffing memo saying that the minimum level of officers per shift is supposed to be 16, but that he’s been on duty when the number of people working was as low as 13 people.

“My fear is for the summer months, if you are unable to ensure minimums during the `slower’ months, I have no idea how minimums are going to be met during the summer. With our numbers this low we are forced to go to higher risk calls alone and members will continue to get injured,” the email said, adding that it was being sent to every officer on shift with the writer.

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Triance confirmed she had received the email, but would not comment on the specific numbers mentioned in it. But she said the staff shortages are a topic of discussion “at the division and certainly with other commanders in my neighboring areas.”

She said Kelowna RCMP has put a call-out to Mounties across BC interested in bolstering local staffing levels on busy long weekends when tourists flock to the lakeside city of 220,000.

“We put out a request through our province,” she said. “We don’t need to be staffed at the same level as we’re staffed at on July 1 on November 30. And so we certainly bring in more officers as we begin to prepare for things like floods, fires — disasters in the season — but then also visitor population coming up.”

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Triance also said the Kelowna RCMP has a comprehensive program to aid officers struggling with stress on the job and other mental health issues.

Dawn Roberts, director of communication for the BC RCMP, said there is concern across the province about increasing vacancy rates “that have hit highs recently of 20 percent for all RCMP regular members.”

Smaller detachments have a hard time juggling to cover shortfalls, she said.

“A large detachment may be able to shift specialized or plain clothes police officers to frontline operations.”

Roberts said that part of the problem is related to attrition rates, but there is also “lower than usual recruitment due to a declining interest in policing.”

Rob Farrer — the pacific director of the union representing RCMP officers — said in an emailed statement that it would be inappropriate to comment on the specific email written by the distressed Kelowna officer.

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But he said the National Police Federation has identified staff shortages “as an issue that all police services across Canada are currently dealing with — some rather urgently.”

“It’s no secret that our members continue to be asked to do more with less and the financial and human resource challenges that come along with those asks have all been amplified by COVID,” Farrer said. “These include an annual drop in recruitment, increased workloads and reduced staffing levels in detachments in BC and across the country.”

He said the union has been fighting for improved working conditions and for an increase in funding to increase capacity at the RCMP Academy to address a growing backlog in the recruitment and training of new officers.

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