The provincial government says a regionalized Greater Victoria police force is a supportable idea but requires action on a local level.
On July 5, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth penned a letter to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. The letter was written in response to an April letter from the City of Victoria after councillors unanimously endorsed the idea to establish a regional police force.
“Integration or regionalization has the potential to benefit the delivery of policing and law enforcement in a community. This government continues to be supportive of integration and regionalization where appropriate,” Farnworth said.
“However, any change to policing and law enforcement in the Capital Region is a decision for the municipalities involved and their elected officials, subject to my overall responsibility to ensure adequate and effective policing and public safety in B.C.”
Farnworth also added he’d be open to any proposals put forward jointly by CRD municipalities.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who also sits as the co-chair of the Victoria Police Board, said a complete regionalization of all 13 municipalities would be unlikely because some areas, such as Metchosin and the Highlands, have more rural needs than other CRD municipalities. Without provincial support for a regional force, she’d rather that municipalities focus more on current and future integrated police units.
“We’re not looking at integration, but better governance of integrated units for better public safety, better oversight and making sure the money is being well spent,” Helps said. “Getting things done takes conversation, cooperation and collaboration, and nothing good comes from imposing anything on anyone.”
Current integrated teams comprised of officers and experts from across the Capital Region include the Integrated Mobile Response Team, the Integrated Road Safety Unit, the Mobile Youth Service Team, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team, the Crowd Management Unit, the Regional Domestic Violence Unit, Crimestoppers, the Vancouver Island Major Crimes Unit and the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team.
Oak Bay Police board chair and Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch said the district hasn’t heard any official proposals about an integrated police force but would be open to ideas.
“While the Oak Bay Police board would look seriously at any proposal put forward, Oak Bay enjoys a high level of service and low per-capita policing costs under the current model, and I expect the community would want to ensure the quality of policing continued under any new model,” Murdoch said.
“It should be noted that Oak Bay and other police forces already have a large number of regional services … and Oak Bay currently contributes both to funding and staffing these services. “
One area where integration of police forces could come together sooner than later is between the Victoria and Saanich police departments, which are part of the amalgamation discussions coming forward with the newly-established citizen’s assembly.
Black Press Media reached out to Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes, who in the past has opposed the idea of regional policing, but he did not respond in time for publication.
Victoria city council is set to discuss the letter at a committee of the whole meeting on Thursday.