The B.C. government will review the state of co-operative policing in Greater Victoria, following a request from the leaders of the capital’s core municipalities.
The mayors of Victoria, Esquimalt, Saanich, Central Saanich and Oak Bay met with B.C.’s director of police services this week to request a provincial analysis of gaps in local integrated police teams.
“Part of what we want to look at is the governance of integrated units as well as governance structure of what regional policing might look like,” said Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin.
“Each community has varying views on regional policing, but we agree that community safety, policing models and policing costs are top of mind for all municipalities.
“The integration of regional services requires thoughtful review and analysis. That review allows us to move forward to see if there is an opportunity for regional policing.”
However, not everyone agrees the review will examine the contentious and long-debated issue of regionalizing Greater Victoria’s seven local police detachments.
Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said the province will strictly look at integrated police teams, which are already serving taxpayers well, but might need some changes to oversight and cost-sharing.
“The frustrations are behind-the-scenes, amongst governments,” he said.
“But in terms of the people they service, [the integrated units] are working.”
The move comes in the same week that Justice Minister Shirley Bond pledged to review the costs and benefits of regional policing in Greater Vancouver and the capital.
The government will conduct a gap and SWOT (strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats) review of Greater Victoria’s integration, director of police services Clayton Pecknold said in a statement.
Capital region police already co-operate on a number of integrated units, including dive teams, emergency tactical response, road safety and mobile mental health crises.
But disagreements have emerged over the contribution of officers and money to the regional crime unit, Island homicide squad and integrated domestic violence unit.
Victoria police pulled out of the regional crime unit in 2009, and halved its commitment to the domestic violence team last September. In both cases, VicPD said it needed its officers for its own investigations, though the decision also diminished the number of cases the regional units could handle.
Saanich refused to join the Vancouver Island’s major crime and homicide unit when it launched in 2007, but announced in December that it would participate.
Joining will cost Saanich $400,000 in the first year — for three officers and a civilian staffer — and already the Saanich police board is disappointed it can’t get funding flexibility or certainty about future costs, Leonard said.
Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said the review is a “baby step” toward more co-operative policing.
“Everybody has agreed that they have certain concerns with integrated policing, and there is an interest to do better,” Desjardins said.
“We’re nowhere near regionalization at this point. Right now we have some integrated programs, and different forces are coming and going from them.
“Why is that? What are the concerns, and what are the opportunities?”
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