Coquitlam Mounties are not only responding to more community calls for mental health support, they’re also getting more help for their own mental health struggles.
That was the message coming from last Monday’s council meeting as the detachment’s superintendent rolled out the Coquitlam RCMP’s four-year vision for servicing the city.
In his presentation on Oct. 24, Supt. Keith Bramhill said the 2023–2026 strategic plan, which was unanimously OK’d by council, focuses in on four pillars to move forward, including how to support officers in the fourth largest RCMP detachment in Canada.
Bramhill said the COVID-19 pandemic burnt out many Mounties, many of whom responded to mental health calls, and left officers “taxed” physically and mentally.
He said the detachment is now offering assistance to RCMP who are on temporary leave, so they can return to the job quicker, and he is trying to bolster morale by bringing back the OIC bravery awards and delivering gift cards for jobs well done.
Mayor Richard Stewart said today’s mental health stressors are “more pronounced.”
“We saw it during COVID, these unprecedented levels of stresses,” the mayor said, noting the city and fire department have put a focus on employees’ mental health.
“It has not been easy in law enforcement in the past few years coming through COVID and everything else,” added Coun. Craig Hodge, chair of the city’s Community Safety Advisory Committee, on mental health.
“I’m really sort of concerned when I hear some of the stories from our officers and some of the treatment they’ve received in public.”
Hodge also referenced the recent murder of a Burnaby Mountie by a homeless person.
But while “Supporting Our People” is a key plank for the detachment over the next four years under the new plan, so are “Partnering with the Community,” “Promoting Public Safety” and “Targeting Criminal Activity,” the superintendent said, noting that the four goals align with the federal RCMP’s Vision150, and community feedback.
Coquitlam RCMP wants to forge new relationships with stakeholders, improve educational campaigns and outreach, and zero in on prolific offenders and hotspots.
Bramhill said he’d like to see more youth liaison officers in areas that the detachment serves: Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Anmore, Belcarra and Kwikwetlem First Nation.
“Clearly, coming out of COVID, we’ve seen a real uptick in youth violence and youth crime,” he said, noting the incidents that took place this summer at rec centres and parks by kids as young as 12 years old.
“Frankly, I haven’t seen [that] in a long time.”
The consultation for the new strategic plan also revealed a need for better communication by the detachment, especially in terms of social media postings.
As for “Targeting Criminal Activity,” Bramhill said Coquitlam has seen its share of Lower Mainland gang crimes, including murders and subsequent torching of suspect vehicles.
Coquitlam RCMP is working with federal and provincial agencies, and hopes for a coordinated gang-suppression team and strategy around prevention to come out soon.
Bramhill said he’d like to relaunch the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program geared for Grade 5 students as youth are often lured into gang life; gang members “prey on vulnerable people who are marginalized in their homes,” he said.
Bramhill said he’ll return in January to update council on human resources pressures.
Still, a couple of councillors said the new policing plan missed the mark in some areas.
Coun. Trish Mandewo said the consultation didn’t include youth groups or newcomers’ organizations; Coun. Steve Kim said language barriers were not raised in the report.
Michelle Hunt, Coquitlam’s general manager of finance, lands and police, said the RCMP’s new strategic plan offers a solid foundation to “ever-evolving policing needs.”
“I think the last two-and-a-half years have shown us how quickly operating environments can change and why these types of plans need to be flexible and adaptable,” she told council, “and I think that this plan will allow us to do that.”