'We can train sheriffs much quicker than police officers and there are substantial cost savings for taxpayers in this model.' - Dean Purdy
Vancouver (15 March 2009) - The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) has made a unique proposal to the provincial government to combat growing gang violence in Metro Vancouver and to take pressure off police forces while making more officers available.
The proposal, first put forward in 2007 and rejected at the time, is being raised again by the union in light of the current urgent law enforcement situation facing the province.
The union is suggesting that the province transfer routine duties such as traffic patrol and serving warrants from police officers to B.C. sheriffs. This would free up police to concentrate on more serious criminal investigations and responsibilities, such as the gang task force, it argues.
"Alberta moved to the new sheriff model in 2006 and they've been quite successful," says Dean Purdy, chair of the union's Corrections and Sheriff Services Component. "We can train sheriffs much quicker than police officers and there are substantial cost savings for taxpayers in this model."
A police officer position in Alberta costs about $160,000 in salary, wages, benefits, support and equipment compared to about $100,000 for a sheriff. In Alberta, sheriffs are currently paid at a higher wage rate than in B.C.
In 2007, the union notes, 397 traffic enforcement RCMP were employed across B.C. — with at least 25,000 outstanding warrants waiting to be served.
"With this proposal, the B.C. government can move experienced police officers into much needed areas of organized crime enforcement quickly," argues Purdy.
"Alberta created separate highway and warrant squads so that resources are not taken from sheriffs' court services. This is a model that can help achieve the provincial government's objectives quickly, at a reduced cost to taxpayers. It would also help address the recruitment and retention issue in the sheriff corps, by expanding job opportunities and responsibilities. It's a win-win situation for B.C.," he adds.
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