'Police services have serious crimes to deal with, such as gang activity, and having sheriffs take on some traffic duties would free up a great deal of their time.'
Vancouver (17 Dec. 2010) - Plans to expand the role of British Columbia sheriffs by having them perform traffic duties to free up police services for more serious crimes appear to be lagging, says the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).
The idea to have sheriffs participate in traffic duties was first presented to Attorney General Mike de Jong in 2006. The plan was based on a model in Alberta where sheriffs took on these extra duties that same year.
"We were optimistic when the provincial government started training 13 of our sheriffs for these extra duties," says Dean Purdy, chair of the union's correction and sheriff services component.
"We have heard that plans to back fill the sheriffs who will have these extra duties is not moving as fast as we would like. In fact, there are suggestions that an opportunity to hire more sheriffs in January may not happen and will set back the plans to allow the sheriffs to take on the extra responsibilities," Purdy says.
"It would be unfortunate if these plans do not go ahead. Police services have serious crimes to deal with, such as gang activity, and having sheriffs take on some traffic duties would free up a great deal of their time."
The union has recently received a letter from the deputy attorney general outlining the plans but there is no commitment to proceed.
Purdy says the training extended to the 13 officers to allow for extra duties is welcome but the time has come to move ahead.
"We have also proposed adding other responsibilities to sheriffs, such as the issuing of warrants, which would take a huge load off the justice system," Purdy adds.
"I can't imagine police officers, faced with the issues they have, being able to get around to even delivering these warrants."
The letter from the deputy attorney general references the delivering of warrants by sheriffs but no final decision has been made.
The letter indicates that there are about 7,700 outstanding bench warrants that have not been delivered in B.C. and more than 25,000 outstanding warrants around the province.
"I think the delivering of warrants is a key job we can take on but we've got to tie down the traffic duties first," says Purdy. "We've raised this issue with the government in the last few weeks and I'm eager to get a positive response from them."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE
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