Police plan under scrutiny by new Nanaimo council

NANAIMO – RCMP Supt. Mark Fisher to explain pressures and where he'd direct resources if council supports additional dollars for policing.

RCMP Supt. Mark Fisher will pitch a revised staffing plan in this year’s budget talks, but Nanaimo’s mayor warns that anybody looking for significantly more capital or money will have a tough time with the new council.

Nanaimo city council is expected to head into budget discussions this January, with a new fire station and additional Nanaimo RCMP members to consider.

Last year, Nanaimo city council delayed more than a half-million dollars in expenses to bolster the local RCMP force, with some politicians citing a need to review the staff plan with crime on the decline and a new superintendent.

Council also opted to hold off on construction of a $2.4-million Hammond Bay fire hall and $1.1 million in equipment, trucks and staffing until 2015 and asked for a review of a fire plan.

The fire plan is still in the information-gathering stage, and the details of the RCMP proposal have not been released.

Fisher told the News Bulletin there has been some revision, but he still sees a requirement for additional human resources and says he’ll likely stay close to the human resources plan currently in the five-year budget. He also said he will talk to council about current pressures police face and where he’d like to see some of the resources go if council supports additional funding.

New mayor Bill McKay said he doesn’t want to see a tax hike for new items. McKay said he’s interested to hear what the city’s top cop has to say, but also believes the RCMP will have a hard time if they come with the same budget as last year because the tax base isn’t growing as fast as it would need to, to support it.

“One of the things we have to realize, notwithstanding the fact that there’s a desire to hire more officers based on a plan that was developed in I believe it was 2008 … with a smaller force as we have right now without the increase, crime is going down in Nanaimo,” McKay said. “So it begs the question, why do we need more officers?”

It’s a valid question, according to Fisher, who says police deal with issues like mental health and civil and family disputes that aren’t captured in crime statistics.

“If all we did in policing was investigate criminal offences and do that then the crime stats would definitely be an accurate reflection of what you are asking your police department to do, but across the province … you get drawn into a whole bunch of other services to the community and expectations of the community that police are going to be there providing some of these other services,” he said.

The revised RCMP plan and fire services review are expected to be presented during budget talks. It’s unknown, however, what approach to the budget process council will take this year.