Ongoing staffing issues at the Sunshine Coast RCMP are “close” to being solved, according to Staff Sgt. Poppy Hallam.
Hallam provided an update on staffing at a forum hosted by the Sechelt Downtown Business Association on Nov. 19. “We’re close,” she said, when asked how the detachment is faring by District of Sechelt Coun. Brenda Rowe.
At least four officers are expected to be hired in the coming months, Hallam said, including one who specializes in drug investigations and handling information provided by the public to ensure their privacy.
“We’ve had a big turnover but I think we’re levelling off,” Hallam said. “I think we’re going to be able to get our general investigation section, our serious crime and drugs section, we’re going to get that filled up in the next month or two.”
Hallam said she could not disclose how many officers “are on the road,” but she is “moving people around in positions so we can best maximize our calls for service” and people are working overtime, including former local officers who are now on the Lower Mainland, to ensure they can respond to emergencies and continue frontline work.
Eleven positions are funded largely through the District of Sechelt and 24 positions are funded provincially based on the Sunshine Coast’s remaining population, according to Hallam.
The cost of living and lower pay than other police forces were identified as deterrents for attracting new recruits, but the issue has been compounded because a number of officers are on leave and the Sunshine Coast detachment has needed to protect those positions.
“Unfortunately for us, we had a few of those at the same time, and some parental leaves,” said Hallam, who noted that she did receive permission to overstaff in order to cover those vacancies. “We’re not quite there but we’re almost [there],” she said.
Hallam said they also plan to bring a community safety coordinator on board to manage and assist community volunteers that run programs such as Speed Watch. “We haven’t taken care of those programs because we haven’t had the capacity. The Coast has grown, our police force has not.”