Community policing is hoping the City will fill the manager of community safety position vacated when Dave Dickson retired in December 2019.
During a presentation at a committee of the whole meeting held Tuesday, July 14, community policing volunteers said without the position, their programs will suffer.
“We are here tonight to re-establish our relationship with the council,” Bob Sunner said. “We’ve lost our direct contact, our liaison officer, Dave Dickson. He has not been replaced and we are a little bit concerned about that because without that direct connection we don’t have as good and clear lines of communication with city council.”
Community policing is one of the most cost-effective ways of assisting the community to achieve its goals, Sunner said.
“Our volunteers are zero cost to city council, we’re out there patrolling, we are being extra eyes and ears for the RCMP, contributing in terms of restorative justice and doing whatever it takes to build a better community.”
Grant Martin, who is a former RCMP detachment commander, said the program started in 1995.
At that time, the position Dickson held was filled by a regular detachment full-time police officer.
In about 2007, Martin said he convinced council to take that police officer and put them back on normal duty and hire a civilian, which he said at the time was very cost-effective and it was important for the community person to be involved with all of the programs.
“Williams Lake hasn’t changed,” Martin said. “We still have huge addictions problems, we have homelessness, we have poverty and not to be rude to us policeman, but we are never going to solve this, we need the community to do that.”
Operation Red Nose does not have a co-ordinator, and Martin said they could see it go down if the community safety position isn’t filled.
Normally the program raises about $16,000 which is shared by four local groups, Sunner said.
Bob McIntosh, who joined in 2001 and is also a former RCMP detachment commander shared stats with council.
With 22 active members, ranging in age from 16 to 80 something, volunteers were involved with 35 patrols and 14 community events in 2019 for a total of 1,096 hours of patrolling.
“Members checked 2005 vehicles, issuing 30 community traffic notices, primarily for expired licence plates and valuables being in plain view,” he said, noting the citizens on patrol program members do the work by bicycle, the community policing vehicle and ‘simply walking about town.’
McIntosh developed a program that has engaged youth interested in pursuing a policing career path that has also been very successful.
Coun. Craig Smith asked if community policing had anyone in mind to replace Dickson.
When he heard they did not, he said it would be good to have their help in finding a replacement.
“I cannot see it being a full-time job again, but maybe part-time,” Smith said.
Coun. Scott Nelson praised community policing as being iconic and used as a template in many other communities.
“It’s one of the most effective ways to combat crime and the good news is, council is in the position to review that position. It’s in the budget.”
Council agreed to direct staff to prepare a report regarding filling the position.