Word of a $10.7 million deficit in the provincial RCMP budget has left the District of Kent surprised, and also concerned about the future staffing levels at the local RCMP detachment.
“It’s always a concern when you have cuts like that to a budget, because we are already facing challenges,” said mayor Sylvia Pranger. “We’re scared it will affect the little communities the most.”
The District of Kent has been conversations with the province about getting another member at the Agassiz RCMP detachment since at least the summer. In 2018, RCMP statistics provided to the province and municipality on the police to population ratio, criminal case loads and the total calls for service showed that it was likely time for another member in the detachment.
The district had been talking with the province about the need for that officer to come from the provincial budget, and Pranger said she felt those conversations had gone well. The district had held a joint meeting with Harrison Hot Springs, the Fraser Valley Regional District and public safety minister Mike Farnworth, as well as private meetings with Farnworth at UBCM this fall.
“It was, we thought, a well-received delegation to them,” Pranger said. “So this is a huge suprise for us.”
The $10.7 million deficit impacts the RCMP’s provincial budget, which covers things like homicide investigation, traffic, forensics and rural policing.
Director of B.C. RCMP communications Dawn Roberts emphasized late Thursday (Nov. 14) that cuts are still a projection, and the first things on the chopping block are travel expenses, overtime, non-mandatory training and new equipment. However, senior officers will need to discuss options with the province.
According to Agassiz RCMP’s Sgt. Mike Sargent, he’s not “expecting any impact in relation to the Agassiz RCMP detachment” and said the cuts won’t affect the services the detachment provides to the community it covers.
Currently, just over half of the Agassiz RCMP members are provincially-funded.
For now, Pranger said the district will be corresponding with the province and Farnworth to see if this will impact Agassiz further.
“We’re a little bit concerned,” she said. “We want to make sure the District of Kent taxpayers aren’t getting the short end of the stick.”
-with files from Laura Baziuk