As a result of the ongoing sheriff shortage, Kamloops Sheriff Services has begun flying deputy sheriffs to the Victoria courthouse on Sundays for overtime, taking care of their meals and accommodation. This arrangement is expected to continue for approximately the next six months in order to help mitigate the ongoing sheriff staffing crisis.
We’ve recently been made aware that Vancouver deputy sheriffs are also being requested to work at the Victoria courthouse. The BC Sheriff Service is asking for a commitment of two to four weeks in duration, for both full-time and part-time deputy sheriffs. Sheriffs are given the option to stay over on weekends while assigned to work in Victoria, which includes per diems and hotel accommodation.
“Quite frankly, we are surprised that BC Court Services hasn’t yet contacted BCGEU for our recommendations,” said Dean Purdy, Vice President, Corrections and Sheriff Services. “Not only are there significant costs attached to this, but what potential consequences will there be for the other courthouses?”
So far, the provincial government has failed to take the steps needed to address the severe shortage of sheriffs in B.C.’s court system, particularly around retention issues. In fact, between 2012 and 2016, the government hired 126 deputy sheriffs. During that time, 146 deputies left for a net reduction of 20. “Hiring without initiatives to retain sheriffs will not get the government out of this crisis,” added Purdy. “They need to address the wage gap between sheriffs and other law enforcement agencies. Once sheriffs are trained up, they move over to other, higher paying law enforcement jobs.”
The sheriff problem has been escalating in recent weeks: one B.C. Supreme Court case was thrown out, two provincial courts were closed and drug dealers have walked free all because of the sheriff shortage. Below is a list of the courtroom closures and delays since last fall as a result of the sheriff shortage: