The B.C. government is providing a major infusion of cash for policing across the province to bulk up specialized units and rural police forces.
Premier David Eby announced late Wednesday afternoon a $230 million investment over the next three years to fill staffing vacancies and increase staffing at specialized units.
The announcement comes following the release of the government’s public safety plan on Sunday.
The funding will ensure adequate and effective levels of policing and law enforcement across the province, particularly in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities, and in a wide variety of specialized teams that investigate and prevent complex violent and organized crimes.
“Everyone deserves to feel safe, and my government is working on every front to protect our communities and make them stronger,” Eby said.
“As part of our Safer Communities Action Plan, we will help ensure that the RCMP can operate to its full capability to keep people safe. The actions today will help stabilize policing and provide our provincial police force with the staff resources they need to address public safety concerns head-on.”
The government has been under fire from the BC Liberals for being soft on crime.
The investment allows the provincially-funded regional RCMP units to reach their fully authorized staffing levels of 2,602 officers.
Hiring additional officers in specialized units such as the Major Crimes Section, the Sexual Exploitation of Children unit, and the BC Highway Patrol is also part of the funding.
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These units serve rural and urban communities across the province and can help to alleviate some work of municipal police forces, freeing them up to focus on other crime.
“This historic commitment to invest in core RCMP police funding is a massive undertaking that took two years to achieve,” Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said.
“Sustained core funding will provide a strong foundation for police resources, enabling the police to focus on violent crimes and other pressing public safety issues, while also actioning the implementation of the Safer Communities Action Plan and other public safety initiatives.”
Eby was the provincial lead on the money laundering file and this funding also supports the recommendation from the Cullen Commission.
The B.C. government has been forced to respond to public safety concerns due to an increase in repeat chronic offenders and build on concerns raised by Austin Cullen after conducting a public inquiry into money laundering.
Eby’s public safety plan includes launching new repeat violent offender coordinated response teams.
The teams will consist of police officers, 21 dedicated prosecutors, 21 probation officers, 21 support personnel and nine correctional supervisors.
The province also announced plans to go after the houses, cars and luxury goods of high-level organized criminals who profit from misery by introducing “unexplained wealth order” legislation in spring 2023.
But there are still questions about how police will be resourced in order to deal with the new legislation and manage to seize unexplained wealth.
The government also issued a directive to the Assistant Deputy Attorney General of the BC Prosecution Service to identify and implement amendments to its bail policy.
The directive is crown counsel must seek the detention of a repeat violent offender charged with an offence against the person or an offence involving a weapon unless they are satisfied the risk to public safety can be reduced to an acceptable level by bail conditions.