- Gayle Baker
Conversation with our RCMP Sargent Clive. . . .
Fifteen gathered in the lovely United Church Meadow to welcome our RCMP Sargent Clive Seabrook. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, we asked Clive what was on his mind. He responded with his characteristic graciousness by responding that he was with us to listen and learn and that our comments would help him navigate some of our most important issues.
The first question asked Clive to tell us about his stance on Community Policing, characterized by positive interaction, partnerships, and problem solving with the community. (It is often most noticeable when officers intermingle with the community rather than patrolling from their vehicles.) We learned that our RCMP officers were conducting foot patrols before he arrived and that Clive is committed to continuing these patrols as a valuable way of connecting with our community. A typical month records approximately 100 foot patrols, with Clive himself patrolling to interact with Salt Springers four-to-five times each month. Participants acknowledged this commitment to Community Policing, noting a strong and positive RCMP presence on Salt Spring.
When asked about a bike patrol, it is Clive’s opinion that foot patrols are easier for our officers, provide greater flexibility, and result in better one-on-one interactions.
As another way of connecting with Salt Springers, Clive spoke briefly of his hopes of eventually creating, in partnership with a local nonprofit, a Crime Watch program of volunteer ambassadors. These ambassadors would walk Ganges to help and guide folks as well as keeping a watchful eye on potential problems.
A participant noted his observation that there are more and more who are driving under the influence as well as using devices while driving. Clive agreed that these behaviours were a problem, noting that seatbelt infractions and speeding were also high on his worry list. (We learned that Salt Springers seem to be quite lax about buckling up.)
A participant asked about the off-leash dogs in Centennial Park, noting that dogs are not allowed in the Park at all. While subject to CRD Bylaw Enforcement, Clive watches Centennial Park activities closely. He approaches the prohibition of dogs with a gentle hand: If dogs are behaving, are leashed, are within the control of their owners, and on the outer edges of the park, he will use some discretion when enforcing the No Dogs Allowed bylaw. Later in our conversation he shared his philosophy that all have a right to use our community spaces; no one has the right to ruin the enjoyment or sense of safety of others in these public spaces.
We learned that we do not have a leash law but, instead, a more subjective under control requirement for our dogs. Designed to insure that all dogs are under the control of their owners and will come when called, CRD’s Gary Holman is considering the exploration of a leash law for Ganges.
Before COVID, Clive was well on the way to initiating a volunteer Speed Watch program in which volunteers would monitor speeds in constantly-changing locations. These volunteers will also be asked to record the licence plate numbers of vehicles significantly-exceeding the speed limit. This will generate a polite letter from Clive reminding the vehicle owner that someone driving their car was speeding. While not a ticketing mechanism, plate numbers will be recorded and multiple infractions are likely to be addressed.
Initiating Speed Watch on Salt Spring has been delayed by COVID protocols and vaccine mandates, but, with the COVID vaccination requirement recently relaxed, Clive can finally proceed to implement this program. More information can be found at RCMP in British Columbia - Speed Watch (rcmp-grc.gc.ca); anyone interested in participating should contact Clive at: Clive.Seabrook@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.
When asked about the RCMP role with suspected illegal evictions, Clive told us that the BC Tenancy Act (https://www.bclaws.gov.bc.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/02078_01) is provincial law and must be obeyed. While the RCMP does not mediate conflict in this area, officers do meet with landlords and tenants to educate them about the law and their responsibilities when things become heated.
As a Limited Duration Posting, Salt Spring RCMP officers are transferred every four years. As Clive will begin his third year with us in November 2022, he was asked about the possibilities of extending his posting beyond the four allotted years. Clive responded that he and his family like it here and are considering a request to extend his time on Salt Spring.
In the past, for a variety of reasons, requests in the Vancouver Island region have been denied, but Clive has hopes that he will be successful extending his, and other members of his team’s, postings here. So pleased with Clive and the team, we offered our help convincing RCMP management to extend his stay in our community. Clive noted that CRD’s Gary Holman and MLA Adam Olsen have also expressed their willingness to help extend his Salt Spring posting.
So why is Salt Spring a Limited Duration Posting anyway? While this decision was made long ago, we learned that, in addition to the hardship of finding housing, the minimal number of officers assigned here (eight in those rare times when all positions are filled) do add a hardship: potential burnout.
Members of our Salt Spring team are on call between shifts. While some nights are extremely busy, all on-call nights require lifestyle adjustments such as getting to bed early - to be ready if awakened during the night. And, no alcohol to relax on days off :).
A larger community with many more officers would allow more downtime; on Salt Spring, officers are on watch, if not on call, 24/7. As supervisors, Clive and Corporal Matt Crist also alternate weekends to make themselves available for more serious incidents. They can also be drawn off-island for resources for such events as the Papal visit and for various protests.
The job can take a physical and mental toll and it is important to reset when things get out of balance.Extremely aware of this stress, Clive places great value on his health as well as the health of the Salt Spring officers and staff.
Evidence of this hardship, our Salt Spring RCMP team has a worrisome incidence of stress-related leave, some for a few months, others for a longer period of time. This stress leave is hard on both the officers struggling with burnout as well as those left to cover their duties.
Currently, two of our officers are out on stress leave; historically, at least one of our officers every other year is on leave. Allotted six Constables, one Sergeant and one Corporal, Salt Spring has too often been down to only four Constables. Filling these vacant positions is difficult. They cannot be backfilled until the officer(s) who are away return to work, transfers, or their 4 year posting ends.
Salt Spring is not unique with this challenge: The RCMP provincial vacancy rate is very high as most detachments have more than one vacancy. A part of the problem is that there are simply not enough new recruits to address our needs for RCMP officers.
One helpful alternative is the program that allows retired officers to work as Reserve Constables. These Reservists do foot patrols and get to know Salt Springers. While the two who come to Salt Spring regularly are extremely-effective, they are only approved where they are most needed, so Salt Spring must compete for them.
When Clive was asked about loud partying, fighting, out of control dogs, and threats of violence to neighboring residents on the beach at Ganges, he told us that he and his officers take this very seriously and were recently making regular patrols of the area. He also noted that it is his conclusion that many of those partying were out-of-province visitors, some with criminal records. In these cases, Clive and his officers strongly recommend that these individuals work with the community partners to help find a peaceful existence on Salt Spring, or, when greater support is required, suggest they move to a larger centres with more services
While Clive hopes that this beach partying problem has been addressed, he welcomed us to report infractions, reminding us that no one has the right to interfere with our sense of safety and enjoyment of community spaces.
Clive told us of his pleasure with our new Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) Area Manager, Owen Page (who, with EMCON, will be our special ASK Salt Spring guest July 22). Among initiatives they are partnering to forward is No Camping or Overnight Parking signs on most Ganges streets. With these signs, while Clive will not question single-night campers who create no problems, it will give him the tools he needs to address long-term campers who are littering and creating problems as well as registered, but abandoned, vehicles.
Clive is also excited about working with Owen to get a rainbow crosswalk in Ganges but understands MoTI is still assessing their policy around this request.
Shifting gears to mental wellness, Clive was asked whether mental health workers could accompany RCMP officers on their routine health checks. This would allow officers to introduce mental health workers, hopefully beginning a relationship that could proactively avoid more serious problems. Clive supports this and has already reached out to community partners to explore such a program.
While his request has not yet been accepted, Clive is open to creative suggestions about more effectively supporting those with mental health challenges. Officers can only intervene when someone is a threat to themselves or others; Clive knows that creating a strong mental health support system is essential for the health of our community as we see a steady increase in mental health related files.
When asked how crime on Salt Spring compares to other communities, we learned that our number of cases is down from 3,577 in 2019 to 2957 in 2021. There was more good news with violence-related offenses: Salt Spring has seen a roughly 25% decrease over previous years. Thankfully calls to Centennial Park have seen a decrease of approximately 40%.
Compared to other communities, we prosecute far fewer cases as they less often meet the criteria for a criminal offense. More often, many of our calls for service that can be settled out of court, and often, very successfully, by our by Restorative Justice Program (https://www.rjssi.org).
Areas we continue to see room for improvement are traffic related driving complaints, reports of impaired driving, and reports of mischief (vandalism) to property. Our time together almost over, we also learned that most perpetrators of our graffiti attacks have been apprehended, mainly youth with a paint can in hand.
As we prepared to pack up our chairs and leave to enjoy the rest of a lovely day, we all thanked Clive for his honesty, strong belief in relationship-building rather than arrests, optimism, hard work, commitment to seeking solutions, and refreshing optimism. (Thanks, Clive!)
Please join us this Friday, July 8, 11-1, in the United Church Meadow to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman to the United Church Meadow.
What do you want to ask him?
Please discuss the CRD bylaw defining an LCC for Salt Spring - its strengths and weaknesses.
Can you tell us about PARC’s progress awarding management of the Saturday Market to a contractor?
Any updates on which nonprofits are leasing the Middle School?
Will the HarbourWalk designs be initiated soon?
What can you tell us about CRD use of the current firehall?
See you Friday, July 8, 11-1 at the United Church Meadow to welcome Gary!
If you want to confirm the ASK Salt Spring location for that week, go to asksaltspring.com,
Any question, anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org
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What a team!)