A video capturing an altercation between a Salmon Arm RCMP officer and two people who are experiencing homelessness shows how frustrating such issues can be for police and the community, concluded the head of the RCMP detachment.
The video was taken about 8:20 a.m. on Oct. 19 by an Observer staff member from a car parked in front of the post office on Hudson Avenue. The footage shows part of a heated exchange that took place in front of the Scotiabank across the street.
The officer ordered the couple to leave.
He responded to one inaudible comment from the man involved by saying, “Do you know what a crime is? You’re a crime, pal.”
The officer again told the couple they had to leave. “You were asked to leave at 3 a.m.”
At one point the man said, “I’m cold.”
The officer responded: “Go get a job, go get an apartment and then you won’t be cold…go. I’ve asked you to leave.”
After an inaudible comment from the man, the officer said: “Maybe she wants to go back (inaudible) and earn some more drugs.”
The next few comments from the man and woman were peppered with the f-word.
The man accused the officer of being “a dirty cop.”
As the pair moved away, the officer remarked, “Have a good day,” as he also left.
Staff Sgt. Scott West responded to the video by stating police had been dealing with the two individuals involved “numerous times” around town.
“I can say that on three occasions we have dealt with the couple at this location and told them not to return,” he said.
“On the occasion seen in the video, officers were responding to a complaint that two individuals were inside the business vestibule and were interrupting the business. When officers arrived they determined these were the same two individuals who had been asked to leave earlier the same day,” he wrote in an email on Oct. 20.
“We have dealt with the couple in the business areas around Salmon Arm numerous times over the course of the last couple of weeks, increasingly more so in the last couple of days. They have been offered services, including a place to eat and sleep; however, it is our understanding that these community services are no longer available to the couple.
“These issues are frustrating for our community and police officers. I have spoken to the officer about some comments made in this interaction, however, he is correct in saying they are not welcome in the bank vestibules, and this has been conveyed to the couple on a number of occasions by business staff and the police.”
Manager of Downtown Salmon Arm (DSA), Lindsay Wong, wrote to city council on Sept. 18 on behalf of the association. At that time, she said its members have concerns about people loitering around the Ross Street Plaza and adjacent streets.
“Their actions and behaviour have been observed as abrasive, erratic, extremely loud and at times, frightening and unnerving.”
The letter acknowledged some behaviours are rooted in deeper issues such as mental illness, trauma or substance abuse, and said the DSA’s participation on the city’s social impact advisory committee will continue and it is open to working with other groups to find long-term solutions.
The letter also asked that the city continue to advocate for more supports for mental illness treatment and care. It also requested enforcement of the parks regulation bylaw that prohibits camping in parks and on public lands.
In an interview Oct. 22, Wong said members of the DSA have seen issues that range from garbage and clothing left in shopping carts in alleys that can attract rodents, to remnants of fires being set and people looking for outdoor outlets for charging phones.
She said the association’s main wish is to be able to communicate with and support the agencies doing the work of coming up with solutions regarding homelessness.
Early in October, BC Housing announced funding had been approved for Salmon Arm for a homelessness outreach worker for a year. The hiring process is underway.
Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond, chair of the city’s social impact advisory committee, did not want to comment regarding a matter involving police, but said a coalition of social development services has been on regular calls since the pandemic struck and the priorities have been shelter, food security, service delivery (including mental health, substance use, domestic violence intervention), training for technology and communications.
“It’s been the busiest and most productive efforts in social development in my time at these tables,” she wrote in an email.
Mayor Alan Harrison declined comment and referred questions to Staff Sgt. West.
Asked what resources would be helpful for police in general in dealing with homelessness, addictions, mental health issues, etc., West replied: outreach workers for 1) the homeless and 2) mental health and addictions.
“In B.C. every community is challenged with supplying enough counselling services to meet the current demand. Counselling services for youth and adults with mental health issues and drug and alcohol counselling could all use more resources to help the affected person and the family of that person,” West wrote in an email. “Our Southeast District management has been engaging with the support agencies, and local social agencies have been doing the same.”