Terrace city councillors expressed their support for the RCMP after hearing more details about a B.C. Civil Liberties Association’s report which singled out Terrace as one of the province’s problem locations when it comes to police activities.
“I hope the message is fairly clear tonight in terms of council on how we feel you’re doing,” mayor Dave Pernarowski told RCMP Inspector Eric Stubbs at a council meeting last night.
He congratulated Stubbs on the results of the local RCMP’s 2010 annual report, which showed a marked decrease last year compared to 2008 in calls for service.
There has been a 47 per cent decrease in calls for service in the downtown core, and a 90 per cent decrease in calls to George Little Park since 2008, which is before the RCMP’s crime reduction unit was formed.
Stubbs went over last year’s highlights and priorities with council, which saw an arrest on an 18-month long drug investigation, the arrest of a repeat break and enter offender, and an increase in the crime reduction unit from two members to four officers.
He then touched on the recent civil liberties association report in which local residents told association executive director David Eby that local officers were heavy-handed in dealing with street people and native people.
“I’m not happy with what I heard in that report. I’m not happy that our detachment has got that perception, that perhaps some of those allegations are true, and I’m not happy that the city has gotten that stamp, that maybe the police in town are a little rough or that we’re racist,” Stubbs said, but added that not all things in the report are accurate or true.
Stubbs stressed that race had nothing to do with how police target offenders.
“When we target people, when it comes to prolific offenders, I just want to be very clear, that when we do that, we do that based on behaviour, not based on race,” Stubbs told council, saying that most listed prolific offenders in town have at least 100 contacts with the police.
“What we’ve done is upset the routine of a lot of people, who had a culture of being able to do what they want, where they want, when they want in the downtown core,” he said, explaining that officers would come in, arrest someone, and retreat, and wait for the next call to come in.
“We’re now saying that it’s not acceptable for these people to consume drugs in a public place, to drink, to pass out in a public place, to cause a disturbance, to fight, to accost people for money, to steal. We’re saying we’re going to hold you accountable for your actions.”
These people are being targeted, Stubbs said, saying that if the behaviour will return if the police let up.
However, Stubbs says he’s not discounting the association’s report, saying that it is feedback to the detachment, and feedback leads to change. He also said the detachment looks into every complaint that is brought before them.
Councillor Lynne Christiansen said it is important to listen to feedback, but threw her support behind the local detachment.
“There has been a lot of positive feedback,” she said. “It is a tough job, and I know that the negative stuff is there, and there will always be some legitimate, but….there’s so much positive.”
Councillor Brian Downie said he also fully supports the department here, and acknowledged that mistakes do happen on occasion.
But “what we tried to accomplish years ago, with the creation of the crime reduction unit, has been very successful, particularly when you think back about the issues we had in George Little Park,” he said. “Those kinds of issues aren’t there, and that’s particularly a result of the unit.”
Pernarowski told Stubbs he appreciates the work being done in the detachment.
“I also have every confidence in you that if an incident does come up, where a member is going above and beyond their authority, that it will be dealt with,” he said.