Province finally agrees to expanded role for sheriffs to relieve some of the demands now being handled by police departments.
Vancouver (18 Jan. 2011) - B.C. sheriffs will be taking over the job of escorting high security prisoners to other jurisdictions starting this month. The program, often referred to as "Con Air", has been carried out by police departments since it started in 2007.
The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) was informed of the decision by the province in late December.
“This is something we have advocated for with the employer since the program was unveiled and have said our sheriffs should have been doing all along,” says Dean Purdy, chair of the union’s corrections and sheriff services component.
“Sheriffs are already responsible for picking up prisoners in other provinces who have warrants and are ordered by court to appear in B.C."
Approximately 30 escorts per year are anticipated, the approximate number carried out by police last year. Prisoners who have outstanding warrants for serious crimes are escorted under the program to other parts of the country.
The program is being funded by the ministry of public safety and solicitor general.
"Since sheriffs are involved in the escort of prisoners from jail to court, this additional work falls neatly into their duties," says Purdy.
"In addition to this announcement, we are anxious for a decision from the government on adding traffic duties to the work of sheriffs. For some reason the government appears to be dragging their feet," he adds.
"We've been hearing from the public for months now that they want to see the police concentrating on more serious crimes. It has been proven that by putting additional resources on the road and focusing more resources in this area, we will improve safety on the roads for all British Columbians."
A total of 14 sheriffs are trained for the pilot project and are waiting for it to get underway. Sheriffs are trained in Campbell River, Cranbrook, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, Prince George, Salmon Arm and Victoria.
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