Future uncertain for community policing

"If the program disbands, you’ll be seeing the police more in your communities," said Cowichan Community Policing’s Carol Ann Rolls as she urged North Cowichan councillors to take a close look at her group’s mandate going forward.

"We can’t continue to provide the service at the level we’ve been providing," she said, explaining that the money coming to the group is not sufficient to do the work it is expected to do in the community.

"It’s increasingly difficult to operate as more and more of our time is diverted to fundraising," Rolls said.

"Our $98,000 [funding] hasn’t increased in five years," she said but pointed out that expenses are mounting.

"We pay $11,000 in rent for the Chemainus Community Policing Office but we only had 118 visits last year.

"Many people are too busy to volunteer. Are our programs still working? Is there a better way to do this? Maybe you want a part-time position. I’m the only one who has anything to lose, the only one who’d be out of a job," she said.

Cutting programs or disbanding the service altogether would mean the local Mounties probably would have to re-examine some of their outreach, too, she said. Rolls said the programs themselves don’t cost much but organizing them and getting them to work effectively in the community requires organization if they are to continue.

"Can we continue to do them all? Should we?" she asked.

Coun. Al Siebring said that it is difficult to look just at figures like those from Chemainus because visits are determined at least in part by what hours the office is open and those hours are determined by volunteer availability.

If talks about cutting programs were to start, "would you be able to set parameters

as to which programs should be kept?" he asked Rolls.

She replied, "Not at this time," adding that a meeting of the Community Policing directors that very morning had been "pulled in all directions."

Coun. John Koury suggested, "it sounds like there’s a piling on of mandates," and Rolls agreed.

She herself used to do certain jobs when she was still an auxiliary RCMP constable, a post she resigned from in 2012, and some of those duties have followed her, Rolls said.

"It does make it harder for me to say no," she said.

Then Rolls told council that it was also frustrating to make an effort for a community and be promised volunteer help only to arrive and find no one there.

That lack of manpower means the future of some work is in the balance, she said.

"Do we continue as a community policing office or just offer crime prevention programs?" "I can tell you are faced with a tremendous amount of stress," said Coun. Ruth Hartmann. "We have come to rely on you. Hopefully council can help give some direction."

Rolls said quickly, "I’m not Community Policing. It’s not about me."

But Mayor Jon Lefebure continued that theme.

"When we created the CVRD function we saw you as a champion. It’s possible that the CVRD could raise the amount of funding," he said, and then suggested to his council colleagues that the subject go for further discussion to the protective services committee.

Coun. Kate Marsh said, "I’m saddened it’s gotten so challenging. It’s difficult to get the message out."

"Carol Ann has certainly dealt with the peaks and valleys of volunteerism," Lefebure agreed.