Despite the rumours, BC Highway Patrol (BCHP) members are not being pulled out of Clearwater and permanently relocated to Kamloops, confirmed Inspector Rob Nason, Officer in Charge of Central Highway Patrol.
Nason was responding to concerns aired recently by local leaders who were worried Clearwater was losing a local BCHP position.
“The last number of years the BCHP has been looking at ways to meet the needs of the communities we serve and the needs and expectations of local governments to arrive at the safest roads possible,” said Nason. “At this point there have not been any decisions made in relation to moving any positions within BC Highway Patrol.”
Nason noted that BCHP does have staffing processes they work through, adding they take a look at a global picture and fill those positions as they can.
“Each position has it’s own unique challenges and that one (position in Clearwater) has not been staffed yet. With regards to the recruitment issues, frontline police delivery service usually (are) a priority. BC Highway Patrol is sometimes not staffed as quickly because those frontline positions are providing that day-to-day, boots-on-the-ground service. Highway patrol does get filled, just not quite as quickly.”
Clearwater mayor Merlin Blackwell told Black Press Media after all the discussions with ministers regarding Highway 5 safety, it would “suck to go backwards on safety and enforcement,” said Blackwell. “I hope this is an RCMP management decision that could be stopped before it takes effect.”
Kúkpi7 George Lampreau of Simpcw First Nation near Barriere said leaders need to continue to work together as a collective with the mayors of the North Thompson to ensure Highway 5 enforcement is a priority “ because we would all be affected by such a serious move if they remove BCHP out of Clearwater.”
Lampreau feels strongly that driving Highway 5 has become even more dangerous, with more “speeding and passing in unsafe conditions.” He believes that by removing highway patrol from the Clearwater RCMP detachment, the “fatalities will continue to rise.”
“The highways in my opinion are more unsafe and it’s become more defensive driving than anything when you are travelling from Clearwater to Valemount and beyond,” he said. “We’ve raised this concern before due to numerous fatalities over the past two years leading up to now, and there have been way too many highway collisions and deaths.”
Barriere mayor Ward Stamer said the valley needs a full complement of RCMP. “It’s unfortunate when we have such a huge chunk of highway with no permanent detachment any longer after pulling the RCMP out of Blue River. If you think of it, that is a huge distance with no BCHP coverage from Clearwater to Valemount.
Stamer noted that Barriere has not received any official word about BCHP in Clearwater being moved to Kamloops.
Peter Milobar, MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson, told Black Press that Mike Farnworth “needs to be willing to make a very clear unmistakable statement that this removal of the highway patrol from the North Thompson is not going to happen. If there are any plans of this happening at all then the province needs to be forthright with the community of Clearwater and the valley ahead of time, so we can all advocate to make the change so it doesn’t actually occur.
“There is legitimate concern as conversations ramp up and worry that the province may not refill positions as they come up in the BCHP in the valley via retirement or transfer. [Farnworth] needs to provide clarity on what is or is not happening with the Clearwater detachment.”