During this month’s policing report, presented to Town of Virden Council at the regular meeting Tuesday evening at Tundra Oil & Gas Place, Westman RCMP once again highlighted the difficulties they are facing in maintaining staffing levels.
“Thinks are not looking very good,” said Cpl. Kevin Bruce, who presented the brief report. Sgt. Scott Fefchak is likely to continue in his current role of Acting Staff Sgt. for the foreseeable future. A permanent replacement is not likely to be named before fall. Meanwhile, one corporal and two constables are being transferred to other locales. Cpl. Bruce reported that Fefchak has been in discussions with the force’s staffing section regarding the need for additional human resources, however their arrival is not imminent.
“We’re trying our best to fill these spots, but we don’t have anybody named and we have nothing coming our way.” Bruce said. He said that some internal realignment has occurred in order to make the best use of the members’ time, however with no more boots on the ground, things could get worse before they get better. An officer could potentially come into contact with COVID-19 and have to self-isolate, be occupied for an extended period with a mental health related call, or wish to take some summer vacation time. Over the past year, the pandemic has slowed the number of recruits being prepared for duty at the training academy in Regina as well.
“We could be down to as few as eight constables this summer, covering our large area,” Bruce noted. “What happens when we’re down to eight is that it pulls us (senior officers) from our supervisory roles.”
The normal complement is a staff sergeant, a sergeant, two corporals and 14 constables.
Bruce asked if Council was able to provide any assistance in getting more people to come to Virden.
"It seems like anything we're doing is falling on deaf ears," he said.
During the discussion, Mayor Murray Wright commented on press reports indicating that officers from Virden respond to multiple calls from Sioux Valley Dakota Nation reserve. He raised concern about the amount of time they are taken away from the community, and asked about the existence of on-site police to look after such incidents.
“They have security teams, but they don’t do anything that we’re capable of doing,” Bruce responded. “They’re more of an observe and report kind of thing. If they see something going on, they’ll call us.”
Wright expressed a willingness to assist the detachment in finding a workable solution, and he and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Rhonda Stewart will meet with Sgt. Fefchak in the near future.
Mayor Wright and CAO Stewart will attend the virtual 2021 Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference, May 31 to June 4. A motion was passed for up to two Councillors to take part as well. Stewart and Wright registered at the early bird rate of $600 per person. Early discount date has now passed, and the regular conference rate of $670 per person will apply to additional delegates.
LG COMMUNITY AWARD
Council was advised that nominations are being accepted for the Lieutenant-Governor's "Make a Difference” Community Award until May 24. The presentation will be made at the 38th Annual Volunteer Awards, to take place virtually, Sept. 23. For details or to nominate someone, visit www.volunteermanitoba.ca/awards or call 204-477-5180.