LETTER: Lawyer praises Nelson police

I have found your police department extremely effective in keeping your city safe.

Re: Nelson police board refuses to accept city budget

Although now a resident of Penticton, and carrying on my law practice based there, I follow with interest the news from Nelson, my home for 30 years.

Perhaps it was moving to an RCMP jurisdiction that crystallized my belief in the effectiveness of the Nelson Police Department.

As the police chief is modest about his force’s achievements, it’s time for someone to speak up on their behalf.

I raised two children in the city, and had constant experience with the Nelson Police Department both as a resident of the area, and as a lawyer practicing criminal law.

So it saddens me to learn of the dispute between city officials and your first-class police department.

If you check the statistics you will find that Nelson stands alone among interior cities with respect to solve rates and incidents of crime in many categories. In many cases, only West Vancouver with its municipal force can claim superior performance in that demographic explains itself.

There is no private municipal force east of Abbotsford in the province except Nelson.

I have found your police department extremely effective in keeping your city safe. Petty crime was investigated, property recovered, and culprits apprehended where in major centers, police would not even come out to the scene of the crime to investigate.

The city police can be very selective as they receive many applications for every vacancy, and the fact that the members do not rotate to other communities and therefore become knowledgeable to a degree not seen it in RCMP jurisdictions are two of the factors making Nelson the safest city in the interior.

One important factor, is that Nelson city police staffs itself up to a proper level. In RCMP jurisdictions 40 per cent of the members are in sick leave or training or in court and they already start with the staff level only two-thirds of that in Ontario cities. So while the RCMP jurisdictions may claim to be cheaper, you get what you pay for.

So if chief Wayne Holland thinks the force should increase, then I would recommend that council support his decision. My children look back on Nelson as a kind of a crime-free nirvana they are not experiencing in their current location.

Penticton and other RCMP jurisdictions could learn a lot from the Nelson Police Department were they only to have the humility to pay attention.

I appreciate the fact the police are expensive and in Nelson, with its low industrial tax base, a somewhat onerous burden.

However, this is one of the things were economy is shortsighted. Police staffing levels should be one of the highest priorities of any municipal government.

Don Skogstad, Penticton

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