Tahsis to lose lone police officer

Small West Coast community will receive police services from Gold River, more than 60 km away

The Village of Tahsis is expected to lose its only resident police officer in June due to safety reasons.

“It’s a real concern,” said Mayor Jude Schooner. “I’ve told the minister and the RCMP that we are going down fighting.”

According to the mayor, it’s an ongoing struggle to keep a permanent officer. Every two years, when the officer’s placement term is ending, the village lobbies the Attorney General and the Nootka Sound RCMP to send another officer.

Const. Tim Hawkes was the last officer dispatched to the small West Coast community, but when his term is up in June, he will be reassigned to the main detachment in Gold River.

And the main reason, according to Schooner, is the Canada Labour Code which  requires two officers to respond to an incident, largely for their own safety. However, she believes there’s another reason.

“This is probably all about money.”

The mayor understands the need to protect officers, but her bigger concern is protection for the entire community. It’s also a troubling matter for other residents.

“I wouldn’t have moved to Tahsis if I had realized there would be no police in town,” wrote Karli Yanchus in a letter to Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton. “This is a huge blow…we are still B.C. residents deserving of service, even though we are small and isolated.”

When Const. Hawkes leaves, there will be six officers assigned to the Gold River detachment, which is more than 60 kilometres away from Tahsis, separated by a mountainous logging road.

For most of the year, about 250 people live in Tahsis full-time, but that number can balloon to almost 1,000 during the summer tourist/fishing season.

There’s typically an increased police presence during the summer, particularly on the water, but the mayor wonders what will happen when the fishing season ends and there’s no local officer left?

Const. Hawkes and his wife, a teacher, are valued members of the community. His presence acts as a deterrent and he’s a role model for youth.

“Having an officer…live here in Tahsis has many benefits; the main one being it prevents crime,” wrote Yanchus. “An unusual danger that our town sometimes faces is wildlife that acts aggressive. Do you think the cougar ripping apart a dog pen will wait around for an hour for the officer to drive up from Gold River and deal with it?”

Nootka Sound RCMP were not available for comment before press deadline, but the mayor said there will be an upcoming community meeting with RCMP to discuss policing in Tahsis.

Schooner said the Mounties are looking at a “different operational plan,” but so far it appears certain Tahsis will no longer have a permanent police officer.

“(It’s) a great policy to keep our law enforcement officers safer, but that leaves our entire village of civilians with no back-up instead, which is crazy,” wrote Yanchus.

paulr@campbellrivermirror.com