Northern B.C.’s top RCMP officer has promised Granisle village council to consider its request to place officers back in the village.
The village did have its own detachment but the RCMP closed it down through an amalgamation with the Houston detachment and transferred the two officer positions assigned to Granisle to Houston.
Officers continued to live at RCMP-provided housing in Granisle but that practice ended nearly a decade ago.
“We cannot stress enough the impact of having [RCMP] members in our community and the level of comfort it would bring to our residents with on-going RCMP visibility,” Village of Granisle mayor Linda McGuire wrote on behalf of the council to Chief Superintendent Warren Brown who runs northern B.C. RCMP detachments and operations from his Prince George headquarters.
“Along with the recent release of the coroner’s report and their findings following the tragedy of April 2016 in our community, we feel now is the time to move forward with one of their many recommendations. Specifically, the recommendation to restore full time presence of RCMP members to our community.”
The coroner’s report reference is to the findings of a coroner’s jury last year into the 2016 police-involved shooting deaths in Granisle of Shirley Williams and her son Jovan Williams.
A key finding is to have the RCMP re-open the detachment.
“A permanent posting would help build trust and communication in the community and help provide timely assistance to those in need,” the jury noted.
“In this case, the jury heard evidence that there was a pattern of escalation and violence between two community members that may have been mitigated earlier had an officer had been a community member.”
The letter from the village does not specifically ask that the detachment be formally reinstated but does note that the detachment building is used when officers from Houston are in the village.
The RCMP still has the two houses in which officers lived when the detachment was open and McGuire has said both have been maintained and could be reoccupied with little difficulty.
“Increasing the staffing complement by two members for this area could result in the new members being assigned directly to Granisle, while continuing to be supervised under the Houston detachment umbrella,” the letter to Brown adds.
The RCMP phase out in Granisle began in 2008 when the two positions in the village were transferred to Houston so that officers, while remaining in the two RCMP-provided houses, commuted to that community for their shifts.
But by 2014, officers no longer lived in Granisle, ending a presence by the RCMP there except for regular patrols conducted from Houston.
Brown told McGuire he would analyze the “the number of calls for service [from Granisle], the types of calls, peak periods for policing needs, and the style of policing being provided.”
He did note the RCMP is conducting a series of reviews and assessments as to how to provide policing within its limited resources.
Specifically, Brown said he would review the jury’s recommendations from the two 2016 deaths and “consider this in part of our assessment for your community policing needs.”
Corporal Madonna Saunderson, who speaks for the RCMP in northern B.C., later noted that the force has just two two-member detachments in the region, one in Wells east of Quesnel and the other in Telegraph Creek west of Dease Lake.
“Two person detachments are not preferred and we are looking at the most efficient means to provide policing services,” she said.
RCMP officers, including an emergency response team, were called to the Williams residence in April 2016 following an altercation between the mother and son and local residents in which Jovan Williams produced a handgun.
A 2018 report by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. concluded an officer was forced to fire first when Jovan ran out the back door of the residence wearing an army helmet and tossed a Molotov cocktail and pointed a rifle toward the officer, and then again when Shirley came out with a shotgun wearing a bullet-proof vest.
“The balance of the evidence supports the conclusion [the officer] fired his rifle to protect himself from potential lethal force from guns being pointed at him,” reads a portion of the report.