By Vanessa Broadbent
When most people think about the RCMP, they picture the officers who arrest criminals, but for Tina Wallner, criminals aren’t even a part of her job description.
Wallner is the Victim Services Program Manager at the Oliver RCMP detachment where she provides support services to victims.
“Police-based Victim Service programs operate out of RCMP detachments and municipal police departments and work closely with police to provide services to victims of all crime types including victims of violence, break and entries, home invasions, suicide/attempted suicide, kidnapping, sexual assault, violence in relationships, fatalities, natural disasters and other incidents of crime and trauma,” she explained.
“A large proportion of clients receiving services are escaping family violence and as such require a great deal of support and empowerment.”
Wallner has worked as the victim services program coordinator in Osoyoos for the last 22 years. Before that, she managed programs in Keremeos and has worked in Oliver previously as well.
This spring, she took over the program in Oliver.
In her 22 years working in victim services, Wallner has seen many changes, including a “steady but significant” increase in crime rates, which has resulted in a parallel increase in the need for support services.
But funding to support services haven’t seen the same increase, she said.
Regardless, she finds that victim service programs are becoming recognized as being “an integral component on the continuum of comprehensive policing services.”
The new Victims of Crime bill also legally requires that victims be provided with information on their cases, protection, the right to participate (in various stages of the criminal justice process) and the right to restitution.
“All victims of crime have certain rights,” Wallner said. “The timely involvement of victim services is critical to ensuring the prevention and reduction of victimization.”
Wallner is no stranger to working in smaller communities, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging.
“Responding to the needs of victims of crime is very different in small rural areas as opposed to larger urban areas,” she said.
In smaller communities, crimes can affect an entire community, Wallner explained, such as the death of a youth.
It can also be challenging to work in a community where there aren’t many strangers and “you are very likely to be familiar with the client or someone they know.”
Maintaining confidentiality is especially important when working in small rural areas, Wallner said.
“This is what I would say is of the upmost importance as you want clients to know that they are safe to disclose information and seek help when required.”
But working in a smaller community comes with perks as well, such as seeing the same clients over years and observing progress in their cases.
“Victim Services can be working with a family or client for up to 10 years as they go through the process of investigation, charger approval, preliminary inquiry, trial, sentencing and subsequent release,” Wallner said.
“It has been my pleasure to have built relationships of trust and honesty with clients over the years which in turn has helped maintain client’s trust in the services received.”
Now Wallner is excited to continue her work in Oliver, which she finds a “very busy and vibrant community.”
“I am hopeful that I will be able to maintain a standard of response equal to that of Osoyoos.”
Like her work in Osoyoos, Wallner plans to continue working collaboratively with local services in order to give clients “the most efficient timely response” to their needs.
“Victim Services is not here to ‘fix’ people or problems that may arise for individuals; rather we are here to assist from the point of crisis/trauma, through to the Criminal Justice phase and to then help the individual navigate what can only be described as an arduous, lengthy and confusing criminal justice process.”