Ucluelet will have a voice at the table when its next police chief is selected.
The community fought hard to convince the RCMP to allow its former top cop Sgt. Jeff Swann to stay by extending his limited duration posting but the RCMP declined and Swann moved on to a new position as one of two RCMP Workplace Advisors on Vancouver Island.
Swann was replaced by Sgt. George Jenkins who arrived from Salt Spring Island in early February but left the position later that month after being injured in an assault by a local youth on Feb. 22.
Ucluelet has been without a police chief since then, though Tofino’s detachment commander Sgt. Blaine Mumford has been filling in as best he can while also taking care of his own Tofitian beat.
Ucluelet mayor Dianne St. Jacques was less than thrilled to see her community’s police detachment endure a busy summer without a full-time commander.
“We talked about that with the RCMP quite a bit. We might be a community of 1,700 people but we have an extra, at least, 10,000 people in our community everyday so we need to have that person in place,” she said.
“It’s mind-boggling that it’s not…They [the RCMP] have their processes and they’re going through them but it’s not as quick as we would like.”
While it took several months to get going, the search for a new police chief is on and the RCMP has agreed to let Ucluelet and the Ucluelet First Nation interview the top candidates for the job.
“We will participate in the interview process,” St. Jacques said. “The RCMP will get the applications and narrow it down to their top selections and then we will interview those top selections.”
A committee will be struck with members from Ucluelet, the Ucluelet First Nation and the RCMP and interviews are set to start in short order.
“We were anticipating that it would happen pretty quickly,” St. Jacques said. “Hopefully by the end of August we’ll hear something about a schedule of interviews.”
She’s happy that the RCMP is willing to hear Ucluelet’s opinion on who its next police chief should be and said it marks a welcomed change from the RCMP’s refusal to oblige the community’s, and Sgt. Swann’s, desire to keep the former police chief at the helm.
“It’s an important role in the community and we’re happy to be participants in it. We haven’t been before and there’s no obligation for the RCMP to include us so we are pleased to be asked,” she said.
“It shows that the RCMP is listening and is respectful and is trying to do their best to work with the community and I think that’s really important given the last couple of years. We certainly don’t feel that we have been heard in the past so I think it’s a good step forward.”
She said the district is hoping to find a new sergeant who shares Swann’s community policing values.
“We’ve had such good policing the last few years and we’re looking to equal that and have somebody that’s out in the community and builds up rapport with our community members and our kids,” she said.
She added Ucluelet plans to lobby for an increase to its four-constable police force as the community is getting busier, especially during the summer months, and its local cops cover a lot of ground with a beat that includes Toquaht Bay, Kennedy Lake and Hitacu.
“It’s a huge area of responsibility that they have,” St. Jacques said. “This summer’s been record breaking for everybody. It’s a tough slog and we will continue to lobby to try to get recognition that there’s a much greater need here.”
She encourages locals to illustrate that need to the RCMP by reporting all incidents and suspicious behaviour to the local detachment at 250-726-7773.
“Unfortunately, we need to be able to provide the statistics that we do need more manpower or womanpower here to deal with whatever might come up,” she said.