Wednesday, June 15, 2022

City Council members welcome New Detachment OIC, share thoughts on what issues may be of most concern to community

Sergeant Gerry Walker was introduced by Council as the new head of the
Prince Rupert Detachment of the RCMP on Monday

Sergeant Gerald Walker was welcomed to the community by Council members on Monday evening, with the Sergeant providing a short review of some of his time with RCMP, opening his notes by observing that he is in the process of moving towards Inspector status, which would retain that status as the rank for Officer in Charge for the Detachment.

He outlined notes on  his most recent posting that of Lake Louise Alberta, observing that his wife also an RCMP member has joined him in Prince Rupert, with his current work mostly that of learning the difference between Alberta and British Columbia policing. 

The Sergeant also called attention to some of his past attachment to the community through family ties and how he had looked forward to serving here one day.

As for his new posting, he outlined some of the notes of interest from his first few weeks on the force

"To be honest, the detachment, really good group we're actually full right now, so every position is filled at the moment, obviously with attrition and that it can go up and down but we're at a pretty good spot right now ... getting together with partners in town and get a feel for what we're doing at the detachment the things we're doing well, the things we can improve on, I'm not looking to change anything for the sake of change, but to get to really know how we can give our best service to Prince Rupert."

He also outlined some of the assets and connections in the province to call on towards policing in the province, as well as to review some of his current work on the new detachment planning as well as towards the Performance plan that the RCMP has for each detachment and how to involve the community more with it in the next year.

"I was looking at what was in place when we got here and how we can tweak that a little bit and then looking forward to next year and how really get into involving the community more in that and establishing priorities, getting their feedback ... through surveys, community meetings and stakeholders etc, and having more involvement in that." 

The focus for engagement for the moment is to work with local media and social media to share information, create awareness of and reach more of the local crowd.

Another area of focus will be some of the crime reduction initiatives, through foot patrols, licensed establishment checks and curfew checks, he also observed on the need to do some work on traffic in the community and to increase the visibility of the members in the community.

"I really want to get community involvement in there, traffic there's definitely some work to be done on traffic in town and the other awareness piece is to get more visibility being out on the road, being around. We're coming out of a time the last two years where a lot of time you weren't supposed to you know pull vehicles over you weren't supposed to be going to events ... you were trying not to deal with people and so we really need to come out of that with COVID not being over but were moving forward and getting to those events"

Towards the latter element, he noted of the participation of the members in the Seafest events to be part of the community.

In the year ahead they are also looking towards localized Indigenous education, as well as to bring the city in towards larger crime management strategies.

The Council members had a range of questions and comments for the new Officer in Charge, with Council Adey leading off the conversation,  noting of his long time enthusiasm for a regular dialogue with the city and all of its emergency services.  

For the most part the Councillors focus was on some of the social issues in the community and how they may impact on Policing and the members of the detachment.

His first note of interest was related to the work of the Situation Table of the past which was suspended owing to COVID, the program one which brought the RCMP, Health and Social services together, noting that it's running in a number of communities,  asking what the status of it may be.

The Sergeant noted of some of his plans ahead when it comes to that element.

"It's been brought to my attention, I don't exactly how they work and I actually have an Emergency Services meeting at the hospital at 2 o'clock which is where I will start to find out more about that and look at how we do that. I think it is very important, there are a number of issues that really aren't an enforcement issue and come down like you say mental health, social chronic issues that sort of thing, we can see where that's best addressed ... so I'd say that next time we meet I would hope that we're either staring to do those again at that point or very close to it"

The also councillor also spoke to the issue of Cannabis Grow Ops both legal and otherwise in the community. 

To that theme, the Sergeant observed how some of the past communities he worked in used their bylaws to add further enforcement options. He noted of the differences between the legal ones and those that may be illegal and what the RCMP could do to make it as safe for the community in cooperation with the City.

"I know legal, there's only so many things that can be done, in speaking with some aspects of the city there's talk of looking at bylaws and that sort of thing that would go towards that, we definitely would work with the city to look at that. 

I've been involved in different other cities where we've done that, where there's  electrical building inspectors that sort of thing that come in as a team, take a look at these and make sure that their up to code, make sure that we're not hopefully going to have the issues of fires etcetera. And if they're not legal that's something that we'd have to look at the appropriate legislation.

So if we have ones that are illegal by all means we'll be looking at enforcing that, the legal ones we'll be looking at ways to make it as safe for the community, that would definitely be in cooperation with the city"

Mr. Adey's third and final question was to hear from the Sergeant which issues locally provide for the most challenges for the members and what the city can do to help them out.

Towards those themes, the Officer in Charge noted of the volume of intoxicated persons and mental health concerns that they receive complaints about, particularly of note in the downtown area and Five Corners part of the city, noting how they could work with Social Services and Northern Health towards some solutions to that.

"One of the big ones ... we receive a lot of complaints about the intoxicated persons around town, whether it be at Five Corners or in the downtown core area that. That's a big one right, because whose issue is that right, and it's kind of everybody's, you can move them along and then its on to the next one,  so there's lots complaints about that. 

So there's a lot of social services involved in that as far as how we can try to address those bigger issues, is the solution putting them in jail for ten hours repeatedly daily? Many would argue no, some would argue yes.

When you get into mental health things like that, we can be tied up at the hospital for timeframes, the hospital has one secure room there, so it does seem to be that there is a lot of mental health issues in town and we do end up taking probably more people there than say an average detachment elsewhere"

Councillor Niesh picked up on the level of public drinking and milling about in the downtown area, observing how its mostly a group of younger people that are turning the downtown area into a party situation, noting of concerns from business owners about the disruptions to their property and operations.

Mr. Niesh noted that with COVID there appears to have been more money in the community for such public drinking and other issues asking what the RCMP could do to resolve that situation.

"I do realize that this is not just a Rupert problem it's everywhere, since COVID all of a sudden there was a lot more money available for people to do more partying and to do a little bit more that they wanted to do. So my question to you is, what are you guys going to do to bring it back down to a more tolerable level. 

Like when you drive by Five Corners in the middle of the day and it's Open Public Drinking while suntanning against the barricades and to me, I get it they have problems but when everyone it's the first thing they see when they come off the ferry and to me that's not what people in the community want to see.

If a business owner builds a business with a roof over the front door  well now it becomes a place where it's dry to hang out. And there was a comment made before when we were starting we call it Eat Street, our little Food Truck area there and it's like don't put benches in there, because then they'll sit there and to me that's not the right answer, we should have benches there because we should encourage people to sit there and if somebody is sitting there doing something that they shouldn't be doing my question is what are you guys going to do about that "

In reply, Sergeant Walker relayed one interaction that he had with a group and moved them along from that area, which was received well by a resident nearby.

He observed the approach would be to get members more visible in those areas of concern, 

"Coming with that is the visibility part that we talk about, I want to get everyone on the road including myself, if I come to meetings or go downtown to do something I try to walk there, and if we see somebody doing the things you are speaking about, whether its OK let's go get out of here or whether its calling up one of my members and saying come pick them up.

If somebody is doing something that they deserve to go to our cells for I have absolutely no problem with doing that and I encourage that, if there are ways for us to avoid that, that's great but there's no hesitancy on my part.

Filtering that down and getting everybody out on the road and being out and around I think that visibility part is huge, it discourages and at same time encourages, it discourages those types of activities and encourages people to come back out.

I would say that everybody loves a foot patrol because you see the police and it makes you feel safer"

Councillor Cunningham also commented on the open drinking issue and how he was glad that the detachment is looking to tackle it as well as the traffic enforcement issues in town.  He also looked for a return of the community liaison officer program with the schools.

To that theme the Sergeant observed he is looking at that program towards reviving it in the community.

Mr. Cunningham also suggested a return to the reporting of local crime statistics to Council and the public, a comment that the new Officer in Charge said he would look towards providing.

Councillor Randhawa also welcomed the new Sergeant to town and noted of the list of items covered previous.

With that the Sergeant's presentation came to a close, with his next Destination a similar session with Port Edward Council on Tuesday.

The City has yet to post the video for the Monday Council Session, once they do we will add it below.

Update: The missing archive of Monday's session was added to the listings on the afternoon of Monday, June 20th.

The item above can be viewed starting at start of Monday's session.

More notes on the Monday Council Session can be explored through our Council Timeline feature.

For a look at some of the work of Emergency Responders in the community see our archive page here.

1 comment:

  1. "More money in the community for such public drinking and other issues?"
    No, it is just the fact that city leadership has let it happen and done nothing about it.

    Based on the below information, it appears that Councilor Niesh's dream of tolerable levels is intolerably far away.

    Overdoses - 58% increase in the last four years
    First Responder call outs - 29% increase in the last four years
    Homelessness - 68% increase in the last four years
    Violent Crime Severity Index - 288.9 in 2020, the highest ever recorded

    Sources -,Prince%20Rupert%20homeless%20count%20finds%2066,in%20homelessness%20in%20three%20years.&text=The%20North%20Coast%20Transition%20Society's,experiencing%20homelessness%20in%20Prince%20Rupert.