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  • Gayle Baker

Solutions - Not Problems: Welcoming RCMP's Clive Seabrook to Salt Spring

July 30

Nineteen gathered in the shade under the apple trees, welcoming RCMP Sergeant Clive Seabrook to explore issues with us. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, Clive spoke briefly about how thrilled he is to be on Salt Spring, deeply respecting its sense of community, the perfect place for him to watch his family thrive.

He spoke briefly about his previous experiences as a police officer, including as a plainclothes commander responsible for homicide and drug trafficking investigations. While many of his calls now deal with folks in crisis, he is committed to reach out to them proactively before they are in crisis. In his opinion, many of Salt Spring’s issues are not criminal but stem from mental health and addiction challenges.

Salt Spring is soon to have a Speed Watch program again! This volunteer program uses a mobile ICBC radar speed reading board to monitor speeds. Volunteers with background checks and wearing safety vests will go to selected areas of our island with a speed reader. Motorists will see their speeds displayed as they proceed through the area. While volunteers will not ticket or even admonish, they will be authorized to take down the licence plate number of motorists proceeding at an excessive speed. Registered owners of these vehicles will get a polite letter from RCMP noting that someone driving their vehicle had been speeding. Considered a gentle reminder, Speed Watch programs are very effective slowing traffic in other communities; It is expected they will be equally-effective here.

Locations for this mobile speed reader will be selected by community input as well as suggestions from the CRD Transportation Commission. Challenges to finding appropriate locations will be that they must have adequate shoulders to ensure the safety of volunteers.

Interested? An orientation is planned for late August/early September. Please contact Clive at: clive.Seabrook@rcmp-grc.gc.ca for more information. He hopes to have this program up and running by this fall.

Clive has been on Salt Spring for nearly a year, the first of his four-year assignment here. Given the possible short duration of his stay with us, Clive has put a great deal of energy this first year into connecting with the community and thoroughly understanding the issues. Too often, these four-year assignments go so quickly that officers barely get to understand their community before being transferred.

Why does an officer have to leave after four years? We learned that Salt Spring is on the list of limited duration postings requiring relocation. A limited duration designation is given to communities that, for a variety of reasons, are considered to be challenging for staff. These posts typically last two to four years.

While the RCMP Headquarters could approve an extension, extensions are uncommon. This may change with a new incoming Commanding Officer for Island District RCMP.

It might also be possible to alter Salt Spring’s designation as a limited duration community. While Clive suggested a wait and see strategy concerning his forced relocation, he did tell us that Adam Olsen is on the committee looking at policing issues and maybe able to provide some input. With housing such a challenge here, it may be worthwhile for our community to consider lobbying to let officers who are contributing well and happily housed stay longer if they desire. (And, Adam will be at ASK Salt Spring next, Friday, August 6, 11-1.)

Before he arrived on Salt Spring, Clive reviewed all the police files to get a good grasp of policing on Salt Spring Island. This was done with the hopes of providing a proactive approach to some of the issues. Clive is committed to getting in front of the issues by collaborating and establishing the relationships needed to successfully address issues before they ignite into criminal action.

Concerning Centennial Park, Clive and his officers have spent 100’s of hours working with those using the Park. Officers have collaborated with other groups, especially bylaw enforcement.

He and his officers have also familiarized themselves with CRD Bylaws so that they now have the tools they need to evict someone from Centennial if they are not following the rules. Thankfully the possibility of being evicted from the park has caused many park visitors to be more respectful of the area, thus improving the situation with very few actual evictions.

While the restart after COVID restrictions makes this an unusual summer, so far, Clive is pleased that those using the Park are doing a far better job self-monitoring the situation.

Last year, there were concerns about summer newcomers threatening our local transient group. While it is still early, Clive believes that this problem is not as serious as it was in past summers. He did tell us that some do arrive on Salt Spring from the eastern provinces with no resources and extensive criminal records - and are soon arguing with regulars and causing problems. Officers generally make an arrest and provide them a ride to the ferry. While this suggested deportation is not mandatory, Clive has found that, so far, the offer has been accepted, with these transients seeking a place with resources that Salt Spring does not offer.

When asked what he is doing about drugs being sold in town, Clive responded that, like most investigations, police need witnesses observing drug sales to report what they are seeing. We learned that these sales often occur on three levels: the source, the mid-level person, and the street-level seller. This street-level seller seldom has more than a small amount of drugs. Officers need to trace down the suppliers to be effective stemming the flow of available drugs. While drug investigations have been limited during COVID, Clive is experienced in these investigations and expects activities to ramp up soon.

When asked about the drugs typically sold on the streets of Salt Spring, we learned that, while marijuana is legal for adult use, street sales are still illegal. Other common Salt Spring drugs appear to include mushrooms and hallucinogens (seldom opiates), but Clive reminded us that he is still getting a handle on the drug issues on Salt Spring. Clive reported that when police respond to a complaint of a person under the influence, it is usually alcohol.

It is Clive’s opinion that Salt Spring has been assigned too few officers for sometime now, and it is likely time that the number of officers posted to Salt Spring to be reassessed. He believes that the contingent of eight assigned to Salt Spring may not be enough, especially when Salt Spring’s population swells with visitors, effectively doubling - or even tripling - our population for many months a year.

To add to the challenges, it has been a very long time since Salt Spring has been fully staffed with its assigned number of eight. While it looks like Salt Spring may soon be fully-staffed after so many years of unfilled vacancies (!!!), Clive still believes that it may be time to begin to lobby for more officers. And, remember: Adam will be at ASK Salt Spring next, Friday, August 6, 11-1 :)

That said, it is Clive’s commitment to make the most of what he has by achieving the maximum effectiveness of his constables through consistent community collaboration rather than worrying about getting more staff.

While Salt Spring maybe a gentle and attractive assignment compared to big cities, Clive also told us that he and his officers often operate without the support offered in larger areas. Clive recalled a previous posting where there was an increased support from outreach workers and helpful infrastructure, such as sobering beds. While officers in larger communities often enforce the law, days on Salt Spring are filled with challenges with no easy solutions like land use issues, domestic disputes, and mental health crises.

When asked whether Clive could deputize citizens when needing help, we learned that this answer is No, but retired officers often come to Salt Spring as reserve officers to investigate crimes, increase foot patrols, and interact with community members. He also reminded us that, in an emergency, we have access to all the resources that the RCMP can provide, including a huge network of support personnel to conduct searches, gather evidence, and help with complex cases.

When asked about vehicles that appear to be parking in Ganges overnight, Clive told us that cars that are licensed and insured are allowed to park as long as people are not camping in them. When they are not licensed/insured, and appear to be abandoned, RCMP can work with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to tow them. Emcon, our roads maintenance contractor, has agreed to store these towed vehicles at their Central facility until there are enough cars to hire a large transporter from Vancouver Island. Campers are more complex as they are often someone’s abodes as well as the reality that scrap yards will not take the accommodations portion of campers.

We learned that all RCMP officers get mental health response training with a refresher course every three years. They are well-trained to de-escalate and find peaceful solutions. They also work collaboratively with community associations. Maybe we as a community should explore how to better support our RCMP, possibly by collaborating to acquire such resources as sobering beds?

What happens when we call 911? After the call is answered, it is sent to a dispatcher to assign the call to RCMP, Fire, and/or Ambulance. The call center is working well as there is now communications with other communities, off-shore marine patrols, and other available resources. One challenge is that the locations that local’s know well, like Price Road Beach, for example, are often not on Google Maps nor the RCMP database. Efforts are being made to tag locations with their local names so that they can be searched this way as well.

During the day, if you dial the non-emergency number (250-537-5555), if someone is in the Salt Spring detachment, they will answer; if not, the call will go to the dispatch centre. In the middle of the night, the 911 call will go to the dispatch centre and it will be determined if an officer should be called out. When an officer is called out, he or she is normally on their way to the scene in 10 minutes. At times, there are more than two calls and, with only two officers on call, a judgment call is required to prioritize. (Keep in mind, also, that the trip from Southy Point to Musgrave Landing can be very long, indeed.) If you feel that it has been too long for the needed response, you can also call 911 again.

A participant relayed frustration that, in the past, 911 calls have resulted in no action. When Clive told us that there have only been 14 night calls this year, this participant wondered if frustrated Salt Springers had given up calling.

The strong message: In an emergency, call 911 when you need help!

But, also remember, that 911 is for public safety; annoyances, like noise, are handled by Bylaw Enforcement (800-665-7899), or call the Salt Spring RCMP Detachment during the day at 250-537-5555.

As 1:00 approached, we learned about the RCMP building, a place very few of us have seen beyond the reception area. It includes:

  • A workspace for each constable,

  • An equipment room,

  • Male and female change rooms and showers,

  • A large office area,

  • Six jail cells,

  • Interview rooms,

  • Secure bays for vehicles, and

  • A gym.

And, yes, we just might be able to get a tour!

Deeply-appreciating the time Clive spent with us, cognizant that Fridays were his family day, we couldn't resist a genuine round of applause and joy when Clive told us that he would most certainly come back to ASK Salt Spring with next invited.

Please join us next Friday, August 6, to welcome MLA Adam Olsen to the United Church Meadow, 11-1. (Portlock Picnic Pavilion if it is raining at 10:30 a.m. Friday morning.)

What would you like to learn from him?

  • What legislation is exciting and delighting you?

  • What can you tell us about the Salish Sea Working Group?

  • Can you tell us anything about provincial BC Housing money for Salt Spring?

  • Do you have any initial thoughts about a possible Speculation and Vacancy Tax?

  • Is there any plan to address our doctor shortage?

  • Is there any news about the Police Act Review Committee?

  • And. . . .?

Come to the Meadow to ask your questions, listen to those of others, and participate in rich, respectful conversations.

Bring your favorite beverage and a smile.

Chairs and chocolate chip cookies provided.

See you at the Meadow!

Any question, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com


Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings?

asksaltspring.com


Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We would love your receipts! Remember: #15


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