Even though they budgeted for four community safety officers (CSOs) this year, the City of Thompson will only have half that number until at least the fall.
During the city’s May 9 public safety committee meeting, director of fire and public safety Mike Bourgon revealed that one of their CSOs has resigned while another is going on leave.
“We’ve posted for the CSO positions, but unfortunately we were unsuccessful in the last recruitment process,” he said. “We’ve also found out, through the province, that they’ve postponed any CSO training until July. So if we put those two CSOs in that course in July, it won’t be until the end of September that they graduate.”
To remedy this situation, the city’s human resources department has sent external job postings throughout the province to recruit officers who are already certified.
The city’s two remaining CSOs are working 35 hours a week from Sunday to Thursday, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Bourgon also said that those officers will be limited to bylaw and liquor enforcement in Thompson’s downtown area.
Thompson’s CSO initiative started as a two-year pilot program in June 2015, and was designed to help lighten RCMP officers’ heavy caseload, particularly in the categories of public drinking, disturbances of the peace and intoxication.
After launching with eight CSOs and significant funding from the provincial government, the program was eventually whittled down to six officers at the beginning of 2018 and two fewer a year later.
Thompson RCMP detachment officer-in-charge Insp. Brian Edmonds told the public safety committee May 9 that the diminished number of CSOs has had a noticeable impact on officers’ day-to-day operations.
“When they’re working it’s good, but I understand that they are limited on their shifts,” he said. “We may have to look a doing something internally to offset that, like redeployment of some additional resources, because the afternoons for us are by far the busiest time of day.”
Edmonds said this isn’t helped by the fact that certain crimes are on the rise. In April, his detachment dealt with 52 per cent more assaults than in the same month last year.
During this meeting, Mayor Colleen Smook also mentioned the RCMP will have their work cut out for them June 21-23, since Nickels Days, National Indigenous Peoples Day and the R.D. Parker Collegiate prom are all taking place around the same time.
“I certainly don’t want to give the committee the idea that it’s all doom and gloom, because it’s not,” said Edmonds. “But … in wanting to provide a very good level of service to the community, we as the RCMP are impacted by the minimal numbers of CSOs.”
Bourgon said Thompson’s CSOs dealt with 98 open liquor incidents and 261 intoxicated persons cases throughout the month of April.