The Cranbrook RCMP detachment is experiencing staffing challenges, according to S/Sgt. Barry Graham. Townsman file photo.

Cranbrook RCMP detachment commander sounds alarm over staffing challenges

A request for additional policing resources in Cranbrook has been deferred to upcoming budget discussions set for January, as detachment commander S/Sgt. Barry Graham sounded the alarm on the “dire” staffing situation.

S/Sgt. Graham provided an update to Cranbrook city council on Monday evening, through a report that requested permanent funding support for additional RCMP members and watch clerks.

Watch clerks can absorb some of the administrative duties of RCMP members, allowing them to get back out on patrol quicker rather than being handcuffed by office paperwork.

S/Sgt. Graham didn’t mince words when outlining the severity of the staffing challenges.

“We’re vulnerable, I’m not going to lie to you,” S/Sgt. Graham told mayor and council. “We’re a retirement or two, or injury away, from implosion on both the regular member and support staff side.”

One recent night shift only had one member, S/Sgt. Graham added.

Mayor Wayne Price introduced a motion to defer the RCMP staffing request to budget discussions in January, which was unanimously approved at the council table.

“I think this does have budget ramifications that we need to take the full scope of the budget in place to make sure we’re maximizing our dollars at a municipal level, as well as meeting the needs of the community that we need to address with policing,” said Councillor Wesly Graham.

However, council did approve $65,000 from a stabilization reserve fund that would be utilized over the next 12 weeks for staff training to provide additional administrative and backfill support.

“We are vulnerable to civil action with our records right now,” S/Sgt. Graham said.

Additionally, council also approved a single watch clerk position with a six-month term from January to June, funded out of RCMP surplus.

Permanent funding for those additional RCMP resources will be an item in the pending municipal budget discussions, as that comes with potential municipal tax levy implications.

S/Sgt. Graham is requesting funding for 28 regular members effective April 2023, while also requesting the city petition the BC government for approval in further adding two more regular members to Cranbrook’s municipal police service.

The increase in policing resources may only result in retention of current operational levels, according to S/Sgt. Graham’s report.

Cranbrook is currently served by 26 regular members providing the majority of call response and investigative services.

Two weeks ago, the provincial government announced $230 million for rural policing resources as part of a plan to make communities safer.

The Townsman has reached out to the Ministry of Public Safety for further context on how those additional resources may apply to Cranbrook, if at all.