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Staffing stable at Burns Lake RCMP

Younger Mounties attracted to local detachment

While labour shortages are common conversations in almost all professions, these days, the Burns Lake RCMP detachment is not presently suffering from this modern reality.

“The detachment is still running at our capacity. We are at 16 members,” said Burns Lake’s commanding officer Staff Sergeant Shaunna Lewis, talking with mayor and council in a recent public meeting.

That’s not to say there aren’t vacancies; they are just manageable and part of the planned staffing process. There is a corporal position in need of filling, Lewis explained, and two regular members are off on parental leave. Those are scenarios with fill-in or replacement protocols in place.

What helps Burns Lake’s staffing levels are the specified time frames most police officers are placed within, when they come to this detachment. It’s the same commitment as any mayor or councillor, in fact.

“Because it is a limited duration posting of four years, we have a turnover rate,” Lewis said. “We are expecting to lose up to five members this year. Luckily we have been proactive about pushing for new bodies to fill those positions before the other ones leave.”

Councillor Kevin White took a particular interest in the topic, during the open discussion. White asked if calls for service statistics ever impacted staffing numbers. Lewis replied that only if that was over a long period of time, not an outlier or short-term trend.

White then asked how members found housing matters, in Burns Lake.

Lewis said a community like Fraser Lake has force housing (dedicated lodging for police officers deployed there), so that was an advantage over a detachment like Burns Lake where the members had to arrange their own accommodations. But, she said, “all the members have found a place to stay, whether they prefer to rent or purchase, and they don’t seem to have an issue selling really quickly” when it is their contractual time to leave.

There are pros and cons to it, but Burns Lake has little trouble attracting the attention of younger RCMP members who are fresh into policing. This has tended to be an attractive posting for upwardly mobile officer. However, she would like to see some more experienced officers also in the local mix, and that is more difficult to accomplish.

What is not lacking, she clarified, is engagement from the staff under her command. Volunteerism and outreach seem to be part of the makeup of most who pick this detachment or get stationed here.

“We are very fortunate to have some great members here, very dedicated, not only to this community but also to neighbouring communities,” said Lewis, noting that part of the benefit of the RCMP is the mutual aid between towns like Burns Lake, Houston, Smithers, Fraser Lake and other places, as labour resources allow per the issue of the moment.

“I am still pushing for one sergeant position,” she said, as her one realistic wish to help with administration and add a bit more of that veteran presence to a young, eager cadre of local Mounties.