Penticton’s head of police is looking forward to seeing what 2022 will bring after a very busy 2021.
Superintendent Brian Hunter is ready for the first three of seven new officers to arrive at the busy detachment.
Throughout 2021, Penticton officers investigated the five homicides that took place in 2021.
“Those are very taxing, very intense files both for our regular members and for our support staff,” said Hunter. “Balancing those while still responding to calls for service in a detachment area with the highest caseload in the province I couldn’t be more proud of our members, our support staff and everyone here for getting through the year.”
It has not been an easy year, with a disturbing uptick in the amount of people fleeing from police and in the number of cases of violence against officers. Hunter isn’t sure what the cause of the increase is, but he is hopeful that the amount of resistance and violence will be reduced in 2022.
“We had an event where police officers were shot at, we had members that were run over by vehicles this year and assaults against officers were up significantly,” said Hunter.
The first new officer is set to arrive by the end of January, followed by two more in February. The other members just need the approval of the Solicitor General and to complete the RCMP process before they will arrive by the end of the year.
Bringing on the additional officers will ease the workload for the local detachment.
Although it ran only for a short while due to the constant caseload, the prolific offender task force saw good success in 2021, and Hunter is looking forward to seeing it bring more success in 2022.
“Within the first few weeks, several arrests of prolific offenders breaching their conditions lead to the seizure of illegal drugs, stolen property, firearms and solving a number of the robberies in the community,” said Hunter. “Moving forward in 2022 we’ll be able to resource the program and be able to look forward to those results year-round.”
Finding ways to help handle the growing number of mental health calls that the detachment faces is another major goal. Penticton’s detachment has seen a 20 per cent year over year increase in the number of calls they are called to handle involving someone’s mental health, as the RCMP have become the de-facto response to people who are suffering from issues of addiction, mental illness or are suicidal.
“I’m really looking forward to Interior Health stepping up and taking a more active role. They are the experts with these issues and they should be the ones dealing with these matters,” said Hunter. “We’ll be there to keep the peace alongside them, but Interior Health and the medical experts need to step up and help us with these cases.”
Hunter noted how the RCMP are often left with no alternative but to take a person in under the Mental Health Act, which can tie up an officer for up to five hours at a time, when medical experts would have more options available to them. Having medical experts handle the interactions also have more beneficial outcomes than just having the RCMP handle the cases.
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