Waters: Police work, not buildings, matter

A new police headquarters in Kelowna is welcomed, but its the officers who make a difference.

The opening of the new police services building in Kelowna Tuesday is being hailed as a milestone for the city —the replacement of a former detachment building that dated back to the early 1960s.

The former police headquarters, located on Doyle Avenue across the street from city hall, was cramped, aging, and in many ways, despite efforts to update it over the years, dilapidated.

But the shiny new building at the corner of Richter Street and Clement Avenue, with plenty of space, state-of-the-art technology and room for growth, is not what will mark a change in policing in this city. That will come from the work done by Kelowna’s 192 RCMP officers and their civilian support staff.

And it’s there that changes are being made—changes that carry a lot of promise.

Since being appointed the officer in charge of the Kelowna detachment, Supt. Brent Mundle has overseen some radical moves to make policing in the city more responsive to current needs, more than just law and order reaction.

Pairing social workers and mental health officials with officers on patrol is a prime example of a new way of thinking about policing in this city, given the help needed by many who live on the street.

The RCMP, which have come in for its share of criticism across the country in recent years, appears to recognize—at least here—that it has to do its job differently as our communities continue to grow and change.

While a great deal of the criticism the police face is warranted, it would be wrong to tar all officers with the same brush. As in any organization, there are people who are good at their jobs and those who aren’t. But, the reality is, we hold police officers to a higher standard. And, most live up to that standard.

It’s the ones who do not that we hear about.

Police officers do a job that we, as a society, want done but are not, in most cases, willing to do ourselves.

So it is refreshing when we see the police looking at the issue of maintaining law and order in a new light, one that is more proactive and more likely to win friends than create enemies.

On Tuesday, at the opening of the new police services building in Kelowna, the building was described as place of safety in this community. But the building will not create that sense—the men and women who work there will.

While there have been well-documented examples of abuse of power by some officers here in the past, this city has, for the most part, been well served by the RCMP for many years.

Facilities that help them do their job more efficiently are no doubt welcome. But it’s the work being done in that building that will really shape our thinking about the police.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News

Kelowna Capital News