Kelowna police look over a variety of weapons and drugs that were seized during a month-long operation earlier this year. The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, which could get some of the 270 new RCMP members promised across B.C. by Premier David Eby, assisted in the operation.

More police could be joining Kelowna-based units devoted to tackling gang activity as a result of Premier David Eby’s announcement that 277 RCMP members will be added province-wide.

Officers may also be added to rural patrols that cover Big White and the unincorporated areas in the Central Okanagan. The local ranks of the B.C. Highway Patrol could also be bolstered.

“The Kelowna RCMP is definitely pleased to hear the announcement by the Premier,” spokesman Ryan Sencar said Friday.

But it’s unlikely any of the additional Kelowna-bound officers, the exact number of which is currently unknown, will be attached directly to the Kelowna RCMP, where there has recently been as many as 30% vacancy in the detachment’s full-time police positions.

Eby announced this week the government will spend $230 million over the next three years to hire 277 RCMP officers to fill vacancies in rural detachments and regional units, as well as to hire more officers for specialized units such as anti-gang task forces, money laundering, and the sexual exploitation of children.

“Right now, staffing vacancies and service level reductions are affecting law enforcement in B.C.,” Eby said during a press conference. “This impacts the safety of officers and the public.”

With the additional funding, the RCMP will reach its full staffing level in B.C. of 2,602 officers, Eby said.

Under the Police Act, B.C. municipalities with a population of more than 15,000 people pay 90 percent of their community’s police budget, with the federal government providing the rest.

The province provides funding for policing in rural areas, as well as for regional detachments such as one based in Kelowna that allow for specialized and administrative police services to be delivered across a common area.
It also funds the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, which regularly sends police with experience disrupting gang activity to Kelowna throughout the year.

On Monday, Kelowna city council will hear from RCMP Supt. Kara Triance that the city detachment has been struggling recently to fill as many as 30 percent of its full-time police positions.

“Kelowna RCMP detachment, like all in British Columbia, is experiencing higher than desirable vacancy levels. In turn, this results in higher call volume, caseload, and pressure on working officers, a situation that leads to higher illness rates, which exacerbates the situation further,” Triance writes in a report to council.

This year, several measures have been taken to bolster the ranks of the local detachment, Triance says. These include bringing in officers from the Lower Mainland on overtime during busy long weekends and divisional police commanders identifying staffing in Kelowna as a top priority.

“As a result, an unprecedented number of officers are being posted to the detachment this year,” Triance says. “The vacancy rate is projected to improve from a low of 71 percent (this past spring) to normalized rates of around 85 percent by February 2023,” Triance says.