Williams Lake Community Policing (WLCP) will not be getting an increased fee-for-service agreement with the city.
The group had asked for a $21,000 annually for two years, up from the $15,000 it received in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Community policing volunteers have been lobbying the city to fill its vacant manager of community safety position left empty since the retirement of Dave Dickson.
In a vote of four in favour — Coun. Jason Ryll, Coun. Marnie Brenner, Coun. Sheila Boehm and Mayor Walt Cobb and three opposed — Coun. Craig Smith, Coun. Scott Nelson and Coun. Ivan Bonnell, council decided during the regular meeting Tuesday, Jan. 26, the funding will remain at $15,000 for a one-year term, subject to WLCP submitting a business plan and providing monthly updates on its activities.
WLCP chair Baldish Singh Sunner told the Tribune Monday the group will try to provide the information council is requesting while ‘simultaneously’ urging the city to hire a replacement for Dickson who retired one year ago.
When Dickson retired, community policing lost its conduit and communication with the city, Sunner said.
“The manager of community safety was the designate executive director of community policing and the executive director is the RCMP detachment commander,” Sunner said. “Council is not aware of how close the relationship is between the city of Williams Lake, the RCMP and community policing.”
During the committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19., the increase in funding was debated at length.
Nelson voted in favour of the $21,000 request, noting he did not want to see the program fail.
“They have done a tremendous job and there is no doubt that community policing in this community has been the backstop with thousands upon thousands of volunteer hours dedicated to ensuring this community is safe.”
Coun. Jason Ryll suggested the one-year term with the submission of a business plan and regular reporting and did not want the increase. Neither did Mayor Walt Cobb who said there were ‘too many unanswered questions.’
Brenner said while community policing is a fantastic volunteer program that often trains youth who might be interested in going into the RCMP, she wanted to see the group present regularly on its activities.
Boehm said she wanted some clarity on roles and responsibilities.
“They aren’t the police. I want their safety, I want my citizens safe.”
Reading from WLCP’s fee-for-service application, Nelson said “community safety, crime prevention and crime reduction to improve the lives of all citizens, I don’t think it gets any clearer than that.”
Coun. Craig Smith, who has been a member of community policing off and on, said it was ‘shameful’ that council was discussing $15,000 for an organization that’s been around and serving the community for so long.
“$15,000 is ‘squat’ compared to what the organization does,” he added, noting there are a lot of members of community policing that are ex-policing members so it’s not that there isn’t oversight on a lot of activities.”
Sunner said WLCP’s Citizens on Patrol and Restorative Justice programs are active and new volunteers are being trained for Speed Watch to run it in the spring.
In 2019, funding from the city helped cover auto expenses, citizens on patrol uniforms and miscellaneous, bank charges, office supplies, general insurance, anti-violence awareness programs, rent for the office and restorative justice training for a total of $20,361.