With Council’s strategic priority of Community Safety top of mind, City staff are set to deliver municipal services supporting a safe, secure and healthy Penticton through a variety of managerial and operational realignments designed to improve cooperation and communication across the City’s three public safety portfolios – Bylaw, Fire and Police.
“2019 saw Council commit to public safety improvements through actions involving funding for new RCMP and Bylaw positions, engagement on safety concerns, revised bylaws for the downtown and meetings with provincial officials on topics ranging from the court system to discarded needles,” said Chief Administrative Officer, Donny van Dyk. “While these public facing initiatives are generating results, staff have identified additional opportunities internally to improve public safety through more coordinated leadership and improved department collaboration.”
Creation of Director of People & Community Safety Strategy
Oversight of two municipal public safety functions – the City’s Bylaw Department and the 25 municipal staff who support the RCMP detachment – along with the City’s Human Resources function, have been combined within a single expanded leadership portfolio, to be held by Kerri Lockwood, now appointed Director of People and Community Safety Strategy.
“The citizens of Penticton are fortunate to have several teams of dedicated people looking out for their safety and well-being, but previously two of those teams lacked the benefit of being aligned under a single point person,” said Director of People and Community Safety Strategy, Kerri Lockwood. “With my appointment into this expanded portfolio, municipal staff, working either directly with the RCMP or supporting them on a daily basis at the detachment, are now united in terms of their leadership and strategic approach.”
Community Safety Steering Committee
With a mandate to improve internal department cooperation surrounding current or emerging public safety issues, the Director of People and Community Safety Strategy will lead the newly formed Community Safety Steering Committee with a membership that includes the City’s Bylaw Services Supervisor, RCMP Officer in Charge (OIC), City Fire Chief, Health and Safety Advisor and Communication Manager.
“Whether it’s for the purpose of planning, operating or responding, these four positions form the backbone of the City’s ability to carry out Council’s strategic priority of supporting a safe, secure and healthy community”, said Director of People and Community Safety Strategy, Kerri Lockwood. “Bringing these four positions together regularly will reduce the likelihood of gaps occurring by way of improved relationships, planning and discussion.”
Arrival of new RCMP Officer in Charge
Earlier this year RCMP Inspector, Brian Hunter, was appointed the incoming OIC for the Penticton South Okanagan Similkameen Regional Detachment. Inspector Hunter is a seasoned leader to take on the OIC role and brings a vast range of policing experience throughout BC to Penticton.
To date Inspector Hunter has met with members of Council, as well as the City’s Senior Leadership Team, to discuss the alignment of the RCMPs duties and functions with the City’s Community Safety priorities.
"After meeting and discussing strategies with Senior Staff and Council, it is evident that the City of Penticton is very passionate about community safety. I am looking forward to joining the Penticton South Okanagan Similkameen Regional RCMP Detachment where we will continue to work collaboratively with the City, ensuring all residents and visitors have a safe place to live, work and play,” said incoming RCMP OIC for the Penticton South Okanagan Similkameen Regional Detachment, Brian Hunter. “I’m excited to work with Council and Staff on our crime reduction strategies that will focus on holding the area's prolific offenders to account.”
Between now and when Inspector Hunter starts, Kirsten Marshall is serving as the Detachment’s Acting OIC.
Opening of Main Street Bylaw office and collaboration with RCMP
Plans are underway to move the City’s Bylaw Enforcement Team from their current location at City Hall to a new office at 284 Main Street, across from Nanaimo Square. Opening is expected in the second quarter of 2020. Designs for the new space are currently complete with construction scheduled for tender this month.
In an effort to forge closer ties across operations and duties of joint interest, the new office will include meeting space for the RCMP’s CSET – Community Safety and Enforcement Team. Also included is a Bylaw response front counter and a public non-emergency call phone with a direct line to the RCMP.
“The planning, lease acquisition and conversion of the Main Street location into an office supporting enforcement and safety activities in the downtown will provide residents and businesses with a more accessible and well placed facility to interact and report matters of concern,” said Bylaw Supervisor, Tina Siebert. “The new office also creates a valuable meeting and planning space where Bylaw and RCMP Officers can collaborate prior to joint deployments into the downtown and surrounding community.”
Greater visibility of Bylaw members
Building on the visible presence of the new Bylaw office across from Nanaimo Square, vehicles operated by the City’s Bylaw Enforcement Team now carry distinctive markings for greater visibility throughout the City.
“A priority for all Bylaw Officers is to project and maintain a presence in those locations around the community where bylaw infractions are a regular or emerging concern,” said Bylaw Supervisor, Tina Siebert. “Vehicles that carry clear markings boost the public’s confidence and awareness that these areas are being regularly patrolled”.
Activation of EOC
The leadership of the City’s Fire Department, RCMP and Bylaw Services, along with key members of administration, have discussed the use of the City’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) during incidents involving threats to public safety, including when to activate.
When activated, the City’s EOC provides operational, planning, logistical and communication support during significant incidents that threaten residents, infrastructure or the environment. How an EOC is activated, including when and by who, is a critical planning procedure when preparing for emergencies.
“EOC’s are normally activated at the request of the Incident Commander or senior municipal official to provide overall jurisdictional direction, control, coordination and resource support to the Incident Commander. It’s critical that all agencies involved in public safety are familiar and integrated into the EOC to provide our community a coordinated response and recovery effort,” said Penticton Fire Chief, Larry Watkinson. “Those with the authority to activate the EOC have recommitted to working together to ensure this important response resource is utilized to its full potential.”
While announcements from the RCMP, Fire Department and Bylaw Services vary operationally, all three functions share common goals and objectives when carrying out Council’s commitment to community safety. To ensure that information coming from each of these areas is aligned and coordinated, the City will begin hosting joint updates featuring briefings on public safety from the RCMP OIC, Fire Chief, Bylaw Supervisor, as well as the newly created Director of People & Community Safety Strategy.
“Sharing information with the community on the topic of public safety is best received when it comes through a unified and planned approach that captures the perspective of each of the City’s three public safety portfolios,” said Penticton Mayor, John Vassilaki. “I’m pleased with the internal efforts being taken by staff to improve the overall administration of the City’s public safety responsibilities. Improving internal collaboration and communication is critical to success”.