The BC Director of the National Police Federation said the job scope of a police officer has changed dramatically in the last few years.
This week is National Police Week across the country.
Rob Farrer hinted some of those adjustments include attending more mental health and addiction calls as well as dealing with people wearing masks during the pandemic.
Farrer told Vista Radio the RCMP are oftentimes the only ones who respond to mental health calls, especially in the more rural communities.
“There are some things that we have been asking for. One of them is for an increase in funding towards mental health and addiction because the police end up being the only ones that are available 24/7 in a lot of the small communities.”
He also mentioned an officer’s job is often made more difficult due to the scarcity of mental health supports available for some of our most vulnerable.
“North of Kamloops and in this province, there are very few mental health supports just generally for anybody and then you add in the opioid crisis it’s a major problem. So, yes, if I could wave a magic wand that would be something I would love to see more of.”
In Prince George, the RCMP and Northern Health are part of the Car 60 program where a mental health professional rides with an officer to deal with those who are in crisis.
When asked if police should no longer be given full autonomy on how crisis calls are handled Farrer believes the majority of cases are handled correctly.
“I think our members do an exceptionally good job across the board. We attend a large number of those calls and it’s less than point-zero-one percent that leads to use of force. But, having said that, yes, we have been calling for more funding to support programs like Car 60.”
Similar programs are also available in Surrey and Kelowna.
In addition, the future of policing in British Columbia has been a hot topic of conversation lately with no shortage of opinions or solutions.
Last month, an all-party committee of the legislature recommended the province establish its own police force, to replace the RCMP.
It heard from over 18-hundred individuals and groups and stated a lack of trust in police continues to be a major problem in BC.
Currently, 13 municipalities in our province have local police forces.
However, Farrer is not among those who think the Mounties should be replaced.
“There has been a great deal of polling done numerous times. The question has been asked of the communities and each time that is done we are in the mid-70s (percent) for approval rating, which is quite good. Our approval is actually higher in the jurisdictions that we police.”
“Of course, there are always those questions about what amount of pressure is put on local police from Ottawa. I can say in my 20 years of being in many, many different jurisdictions, I didn’t have any pressure from Ottawa.”
PG RCMP Superintendent Shaun Wright said it would cost the city an extra three million dollars per year to have its own municipal police.