Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson said he likes what he has heard about Premier David Eby’s Safer Communities Action Plan, while veteran city councillor Dale Bass told KTW she wants to see implementation before forming an opinion.
Over the weekend, Eby announced a list of actions he intends to implement as premier to address community safety.
Among the highlights are new funding for teams of police officers and nurses (like the Car 40 program operating locally), the creation of prolific offender response teams, a new directive to Crown for bail hearings and expanding virtual bail sessions.
The safety plan includes a $3-million fund for integrated mobile community crisis response by police and health-care workers in communities throughout B.C., known as Car Teams.
Bass said there are multiple communities that need mental-health services.
“The provincial government knows we [city council] have been lobbying for a second Car 40 for years,” Bass said, noting she is not sure what else council can do to secure the provincial funds other than to continue lobbying.
Hamer-Jackson said he is does not know how effective the Car 40 program is, but he has spoken with Interior Health CEO Susan Brown about a possible Kamloops expansion, noting council will need to speak further with the health authority about it.
Car 40 is a program that pairs a mental-health practitioner with an RCMP officer as they respond to calls involving mental-health situations.
Kamloops Mounties and local politicians want to see the Car 40 program expanded, but Interior Health has thus far been non-committal about adding a mental-health nurse to the program. While the city supports two police officers for the program, only one nurse is funded by Interior Health.
The service operates four days a week and only during daytime hours. However, as Bass noted, mental-health calls don’t conform to the average work week, noting a second car team is needed to get the service up to 24/7 coverage.
Bass said part of Car 40’s work is following up with people after calls to ensure they are attending treatment.
“There’s an awful lot more than just showing up at an action where police are called,” Bass said.
Eby’s plan will also create repeat violent offender co-ordinated response teams, consisting of police and 21 dedicated prosecutors, 21 probation officers, 21 support personnel and nine correction supervisors.
Hamer-Jackson believe it is a good idea and hopes the plan will include the use of outreach workers, noting they can be effective in getting people into recovery programs.
Another $3 million a year from Eby’s plan will expand virtual bail hearings so those charged with crimes need not be transported to regional hubs such as Kamloops, Prince George and Nanaimo and get stuck there, homeless. Eby, a former attorney general, has also implemented a new policy on bail that intends to keep repeat offenders behind bars by directing prosecutors to more often oppose release.
Hamer-Jackson described expanding the virtual bail system as “a great idea,” noting he recently visited two shelters in Kamloops, where he heard from people there trying to get back to their home communities.
“I’m glad he’s focusing on all these issues that we’ve been raising and were key issues in municipal elections all through the province,” Bass said.
“It’s great to talk and to promise, but let’s just see it actually happen.”
Reached for comment, Kamloops RCMP Supt. Jeff Pelley told KTW via email he plans to learn more about the action plans and its implications for police, declining a request from this newspaper for an interview until more details of the plan are released.
"In the meantime, the Kamloops RCMP detachment looks forward to learning the details of the action plan, how it will contribute to our shared goal of community safety and how it will build on some of the initiatives the detachment currently has in place, such as our detachment’s offender management team – the Crime Reduction Unit -- and other strategic priorities," Kamloops RCMP spokesperson Crystal Evelyn said.
—This story was updated at 4:15 p.m. to add comment from the Kamloops RCMP