Input from sheriffs to strengthen access to court services
B.C.’s justice system will be strengthened by the B.C. Sheriff Service’s (BCSS) comprehensive plan to support sheriffs and make sure people have consistent, safer access to court services.
“The work sheriffs do is critical to ensure people have access to courtroom services,” said Niki Sharma, Attorney General. “With law-enforcement agencies across the country experiencing recruitment and retention challenges, the BCSS listened to the concerns of sheriffs to better understand what changes are needed to help guard against court closures and improve working conditions, and that’s what we’re taking action on.”
The ministry is taking steps to strengthen access to court services by improving sheriff recruitment and retention, including:
- instituting a more competitive pay-and-benefits framework for sheriffs (last increase for included staff took effect April 2023);
- offering a recruitment-and-retention incentive payment (implemented Aug. 4, 2023);
- making it easier for people to apply to the sheriff program by removing financial barriers to achieve a low-cost, low-travel application process (April and August 2023 intakes);
- starting a regional ambassador program to raise awareness at career events and support people through the application process (implemented March 2023);
- implementing a strategic-marketing campaign (implemented August 2023); and
- creating a dedicated recruitment team with sufficient resources to increase recruitment activities (manager position created March 2023; and a support staff position filled September 2023)
The BCSS is working to further address compensation and scope of duties, increase training opportunities for staff, improve working conditions through training for managers and support for employees, and create a strategic plan that is specific to BCSS. Open and transparent dialogue with all parties continues to drive further action for sheriffs.
Recruitment efforts are already seeing positive results. During the summer intake, the BCSS received 624 applicants – a significant increase from the two previous intakes (251 in April and 229 in January) – a 144% increase and nearly double pre-pandemic numbers.
The BCSS has notified the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC), where sheriffs are trained, that it hopes the March 2024 class will be the largest since 2010.
“During my 12-year career with the B.C. Sheriff Service, I’ve been fortunate to serve in a variety of communities,” said Matthew Holloway, a senior inspector for the BCSS.
“From my time as a deputy sheriff in the most remote northern locations to my work today as a senior inspector on Vancouver Island, this career continues to be incredibly rewarding. Sheriffs perform a multitude of duties to ensure all levels of courts operate smoothly and safely. I am immensely proud of the work we do as sheriffs.”
On Oct. 4, 11 recruits will graduate from the 11-week sheriff-training program run by JIBC.
The new sheriffs will be dispatched to Victoria, Williams Lake, Nelson, Cranbrook and communities across the Lower Mainland.
In November, a class of as many as 18 recruits will begin their training, graduating in January 2024.
“JIBC is proud to offer sheriff-recruit training to ensure sheriffs have all the critical skills they need to protect our justice system,” said Michel Tarko, president and CEO of JIBC.
“Congratulations to the sheriff graduates and we wish them all the best as they head to communities across B.C. to begin their important work.”
Court users can expect that the newly graduated sheriffs, with more to come, will help keep courtrooms running safely and efficiently.
- Sheriffs provide protective and enforcement services for the judiciary, Crown, defence, public and court staff, as well as people accessing court services.
- They also carry out court orders and transport accused and convicted people to and from provincial and federal correctional institutions and court.
- The BCSS serves 89 court locations throughout the province.
- Sheriff intakes occur three times a year.