It’s the law courts that are responsible for determining if people who are arrested should be released or held, according to Insp. Chris Bear, head of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP.
Bear was responding to a question from North Cowichan Coun. Tek Manhas at a committee of the whole meeting in the municipality on Nov. 23.
Manhas said there is a perception among many in the community that the RCMP operates under a “catch-and release” philosophy in which many offenders are arrested, but are quickly back on the streets.
A number of business owners in the community, including a number along the troubled highway corridor, have complained that people that have been arrested by the RCMP for offences to property and people around their shops are being released too quickly.
Bear said the police don’t have a catch-and-release program.
“If we [the RCMP] feel that someone needs to go to court, we’ll bring them to court and it’s up to the courts to decide whether they are released or not,” he said.
“It’s not a police issue. We still arrest people, but it’s matter of whether the courts will hold them. A lot of attention has been drawn to this lately because the courts are not holding as many people as before, and that has a lot to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Manhas also said many in the community feel that the police operate under two sets of laws.
“Someone can shoot up in the middle of the street right in front of police officers and nothing gets done, while another person drinking beer on the sidewalk gets busted,” he said.
“Is there a solution to this issue?”
Bear responded that it’s a big question to answer.
“If you look at an individual shooting up and he has a prescription for opioids, which they can have now, there’s no law that says they can’t do that,” he sad.
“I don’t have the answers for social issues right now.”