B.C. promises $230M for RCMP in 'unprecedented multi-year investment'

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaks to media about how non-medical cannabis will be regulated in the province during a press conference in the press gallery at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday February 5, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The B.C. government has promised to invest $230 million to improve police staffing levels across the province, particularly in rural and remote areas, over the next three years.

The funding will be distributed over the next three years with the goal of filling long-standing vacancies in rural police detachments and in specialized RCMP units.

Those specialized units include the Major Crimes Section, BC Highway Patrol and Sexual Exploitation of Children unit.

The province claims that increased staffing of provincially funded RCMP units, particularly specialized units, can benefit municipal polices forces by lightening their load so they can focus on other types of crime.

"Everyone deserves to feel safe, and my government is working on every front to protect our communities and make them stronger," said Premier David Eby in a release Wednesday.

"The actions today will help stabilize policing and provide our provincial police force with the staff resources they need to address public safety concerns head on," he said.

The B.C. government says provincially funded RCMP detachments are authorized to have up to 2,602 officers across the province.

Currently, there are about 277 vacancies across all provincially funded RCMP detachments, according to Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.

The funding is intended to fill all those vacancies, though it's unclear how long that will take. It's one of the reasons why the commitment is spread over three years, says Farnworth.

The $230 million in funding will also go towards supporting prosecutors and probation officers who work with violent high-risk offenders.

Wednesday's announcement is part of the province's new Safer Communities Action Plan, which Eby announced Sunday.

Eby says the plan follows a two-pronged approach: enforcement and intervention.

The plan includes launching a repeat violent offenders co-ordinated response team and expanding counselling and mental health response teams.

The premier says there's also a focus on "building confidence" in the prosecution system, with the attorney general being tasked with implementing clearer approaches to bail conditions for repeat violent offenders.

The Opposition Liberals say random violent crime increased under Eby's recent watch as attorney general, where repeat offenders were often released only to reoffend.

The Liberals say random acts of violence throughout the province, but especially in Vancouver, have people fearful for their safety.

"We wholeheartedly welcome this unprecedented multi-year investment in the Provincial RCMP budget as it will have a direct impact in delivering public safety to the communities we proudly serve," said Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, Commanding Officer of the BC RCMP, in the release.

"The funding increase also signals a strong commitment to our police officers and employees who work tirelessly to keep our communities safe," he said.

With files from the Canadian Press

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