By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Feb. 28, 2014
An understaffed RCMP has removed the only police officer working as a school liaison officer in town.
RCMP said it’s understaffed and can’t afford to have an officer just for schools.
RCMP and council both agree the position is important, but haven’t always agreed on how to make it work.
The school liaison officer position was created in 2008 when the then Howe Sound school principal, Nancy Campbell, came before the council with the request to create one.
“If we are funded for 24 police officers, then the liaison officer will be there.” Sgt. Neil Cross.
The then Staff Sgt. Guy Pollock agreed to have a police officer just for local schools.
He told the Reporter two years ago that he carved a position in the hope that district would fund it later.
That never happened, but in 2009, the district reduced the number of officers to 23, a reduction of two positions.
Two officers short, RCMP was forced to remove the school liaison officer.
On council’s insistence, the position was reinstated in 2011.
Now, it’s been cut again as RCMP says it can’t dedicate an officer just for the position.
Instead of a dedicated school liaison officer, three officers also include schools as part of their work schedule.
“We still have officer who go to schools, but it’s not nearly as effective as having a full-time position,” said Sgt. Neil Cross at a recent council meeting.
An assertive Mayor Rob Kirkham reminded Sgt. Cross that the school liaison officer was a council directive, not a request.
“We are giving a clear direction that we want it,” Kirkham said.
Sgt. Cross was equally clear: Give us another police officer and we’ll make it happen.
“If we are funded for 24 police officers, then the liaison officer will be there,” he said.
Cross said the town’s population has increased, but not the number of those policing it has remained the same.
Squamish is one among the top three for criminal code files.
The average in BC is 64 criminal code cases per officer, while Squamish is at 80.
“That is 25 per cent more what the average police officer carries in BC,” said Sgt. Cross.
Only two more municipalities–Penticton and Fort St. John—have a higher file load.
“Our officers are busy and we have cut back as much as we can.” Sgt. Neil Cross
Sgt. Cross said Squamish has had one of the largest increases in population in the province.
It costs approximately $180,000 for a new full-time police officer.
Squamish’s obligation to RCMP funding has also increased with increasing population.
In 2011, Squamish was paying only 70 per cent of the policing costs with the province pitching in with the rest.
Last year, the town’s cost increased to 90 per cent, approx a $1 million more.