Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Esquimalt gets to keep the VicPD

The report was released today about about the relationship problems between Esquimalt and Victoria when it comes to policing.   The report has been complete since January.    The upshot of the report is that the province will not let Esquimalt choose to go with the RCMP as a police service even though the local council reviewed the offers from the VicPD and RCMP and found that the residents of Esquimalt got a better deal with the RCMP.

I personally would like to see some radical changes in policing in BC, I would like the provincial government to take over all policing in BC and create a single BC police force.   Policing really does not make much sense still being in the hands of the local governments, the very nature of what they do has changed too much to be effective as a host of small fiefdoms in the province.  As much as I would like this change, it is not going to happen.

Meanwhile back here in Victoria.   I can understand reasons for keeping Esquimalt with the VicPD. the loss of Esquimalt at this time would cause significant operational and cost problems for the VicPD.  I can also understand the reason Esquimalt is unhappy with the VicPD, I do not think the recommended changes will make policing a true partnership between Victoria and Esquimalt

The report makes 43 recommendations:

  • Change the name to the Victoria and Esquimalt Police - a good symbolic start though they should have made the name alphabetical otherwise the whole idea of it being an equal partnership is once again under question. 
  • Negotiate a framework agreement for governance and funding of the police - what happens if one party or another does not agree?  My read on it is that both Victoria and Esquimalt each have a defacto veto.
  • Part of the negotiations to include service for Esquimalt, how much and what form.
  • Also to be negotiated is the funding of the police - who much and what should Esquimalt pay for?
  • Budget processes are also to be included in the framework - though what is not clear is if one or the other municipality would be able to say no and send the budget back to be reworked.
  • The framework agreement is also supposed to come up with a dispute resolution process with the ultimate end being arbitration.
  • In 2017 there is to be a review of the effectiveness of the police board, the funding formula and the responsiveness of the police to community needs - does mean more than Esquimalt or neighbourhoods like Fernwood or James Bay as well?
  • Recomendations 16-21 are all about how the police board operates, the goal being a cooperative and consensual board which is a thing to wish for but not I am not sure that this can be as easily achieved when there are the interests of two governments to be met.
  • Recommendation #22 is that the two mayors are co-chairs.  This is a recipe for disaster unless the two mayors can work well together.   I suspect you will really see alternating leadership every six months.
  • New community advisory committees that reflect the municipal boundaries and not the boundaries of the neighbourhoods.   I think this advisory committee will only work for Esquimalt and not for Victoria.
  • Recommendation #28 and #29 related to how the costs are to be split - each municipality covers the cost of their detachment and then share the overhead
  • Recommendation #33 seems to say to me that the City of Victoria was not letting Esquimalt see the full books related to the police department.
  • Recommendations #34 to #37 are "value for money"  - all boiler plate bland statements that any competent manger would already have been doing.
  • Recommendation #38 to #41 are related to conflict resolution - all that I need to know is that there is arbitration available to final resolve any conflicts.
  • Recommendation #42 and #43 is a polyannaish looking to regional costs to be covered by the other municipalities.

Overall I am not convinced this is going to make things much better for Esquimalt.    At the end of the day the police are still a part of the City of Victoria and not the Township of Esquimalt.  I can not see this making Esquimalt a full and equal partner with Victoria.   What happens if Esquimalt decides to block something, will Victoria accept being pushed around by a small municipality?

If Victoria wants to see this work the council will make it clear that they say the police as a 50/50 partnership between the two municipalities.

From a governance perspective it makes a lot more sense for Esquimalt to be part of the Westshore RCMP because Esquimalt is of the same size and scale as the other other municipalities served by the Westshore RCMP.

The obvious police amalgamation in this region is Saanich and Victoria because then we would have a locally based force large enough to take on more serious crime.   I do not see this happening anytime soon for a host or reasons

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