Kelowna’s top cop says police are stuck in a “catch and release pattern” dealing with a growing number of people suffering from mental health issues, and it’s taxing resources.
Supt. Kara Triance called a press conference Thursday afternoon to address questions raised in the wake of an Oct. 18 homicide investigation that resulted in a 54-year-old woman being arrested in a case of what Triance alleges was “intimate partner violence.”
Within a day, the woman was released back into the community when no charges were brought forth by the BC Prosecution Service.
The woman was apprehended under the Mental Health Act shortly thereafter, but Triance said her current status is unknown.
When she is released, however, the lack of charges will mean that she will be free, without conditions, and that is something Triance said is “concerning.”
“So often, it is these systems that we are caught between,” she said.
“The police are left between the health-care system, which is burdened by the constraints that it has, and the justice system, where there are a lot of restrictions and increasingly closed doors of remand centres that are full of policies and directives that I believe are important, and modernizing our justice system, but leaving individuals at large in their community.”
This “frustrating situation” is affecting the way RCMP can keep the community safe, she said, eroding the sense of safety for residents.
“I think if we talk about the incarceration of complex social issues, it’s not the answer,” she said.
“In the absence of the health-care facility or an incarceration facility, or remand centre, police are left in this catch and release cycle, where we are dealing with people in the society and we do not have the systems before us to address these matters.”
Triance said police officers are working around the clock right now to bring a disclosure package to the BC Prosecution Service.
That effort, she said, will take a full team of investigators putting aside everything else they know for up to three weeks.
Presumably, that may be when the BC Prosecution Service could decide to lay charges. Until then, however, the suspect will be free, without conditions.
Triance said she didn’t want to speak to how the BC Prosecution Service operates but also wanted the public to know what they are dealing with.
“I think what’s important for me as a police chief is to communicate really clearly with the public about what our strategies are going forward, what our current situation is and how we keep our community safe,” she said.
Gordon Comer from the BC Prosecution Service said in an emailed statement that it is waiting for the RCMP to submit a report to Crown Counsel on this matter.
“Once that has been submitted, the BCPS will do a thorough charge assessment in accordance with our Charge Assessment policy,” he said.
This summer Statistics Canada released its national crime severity index for 2020, and Kelowna was ranked third overall, up from fourth in 2019.
The crime severity index measures the severity of police-reported violations, including traffic offences, with serious crimes given more weight.
According to Statistics Canada, the national average for 2020 was 73.44.
Kelowna’s rating, which includes Peachland, West Kelowna and Lake Country, was 111.9.Kelowna climbs national crime severity index
In a statement to Global News at that time, local RCMP said Kelowna is a safe city.
“We recognize that this ranking may be disturbing, but Kelowna is a safe city, and it is important to look at our CSI statistics in context,” RCMP Cpl. Jocelyn Noseworthy said.
Police say with Kelowna being a resort destination, “while we experience a significant increase in visitors that number is not reflected in our population statistics but can affect reported crime.”
Noseworthy noted that Kelowna is ranked ninth in violent crime but second in non-violent crime, and it’s those non-violent crimes that pushed Kelowna up.
“While all crimes are personal, our preliminary review shows that much of the crime that is affecting the Kelowna CMA non-violent crime rating are crimes of opportunity and proactive files that police generate,” said Noseworthy.
—with files from Doyle Potenteau