A special Victoria police committee has sketched a framework for one Greater Victoria police force, as the department pushes ahead with its regionalization goals despite resistance from other departments.
“Southern Vancouver Island is home to one of the last remaining examples of ‘patchwork’ policing models in Canada … policed by a combination of municipal departments, RCMP detachments and several integrated units,” said the report, leaked to the Times Colonist.
“This structure of delivering policing services is not only inefficient, it jeopardizes public safety.”
The report, which was presented to the Victoria police board in camera earlier this month, divides the region into four districts and details how police resources would be redeployed.
The biggest change is that policing of Oak Bay would be split in two, the southern half covered by district one, which includes Victoria and Esquimalt, and the northern portion covered by district two, which includes Saanich.
The Saanich Peninsula, which includes Sidney, North Saanich and Central Saanich, would have fewer patrol officers while more units would be deployed in downtown Victoria. It would also eliminate the RCMP in Greater Victoria.
The total number of police officers would drop from 532 to 508. There would be five additional major crime detectives and 14 fewer traffic cops because it would eliminate the 10 traffic officers from the Integrated Road Safety Unit. The deployment numbers would not take into account part-time teams, such as the emergency response team, crowd management unit, dive team, marine response unit and explosive disposal unit, which would be drawn from patrol resources, as is the case now.
The report said all existing public safety buildings, such as the detachment headquarters, would be used.
Authored by four officers — Sgt. Lesley Watson, constables Allison Johnson, Mike Massine and Phil DiBattista — and a civilian, Alex Rutherford, the report is set to be released publicly at October’s police board meeting.
Victoria police have long lobbied for a single force, saying it’s unfair that they shoulder the burden of policing the downtown core, the region’s entertainment and crime hub.
A regional police force is the primary goal of the department’s strategic plan to have the “safest region” by 2020.
Several reports and inquests have questioned the effectiveness of having seven police departments patrol a population of 340,000.
The coroner’s inquest into the Peter Lee murder-suicide in September 2007 found there was a disjointed response and communication breakdown that could have been avoided if all departments were working across boundaries as one unit.
Since the mid-1950s, most cities across Canada have consolidated police forces into one regional department, the report said.
In Ontario, the government set minimum standards for departments, forcing smaller departments to join larger ones.