Jan 3, 2013

Need for a Regional Police Force


Creating a Vancouver region police force is at least one recommendation of the Missing Women Inquiry that should be put into effect as soon as possible. This will be difficult, mainly because the RCMP, with a 20 year contract that was put in place last March, is not going to be easily dislodged from the Vancouver region.

A regional police force makes sense for all of the reasons Wally Oppal enumerates. The terrible fate of women from the Downtown Eastside showed a massively dysfunctional and ineffective coordination of police efforts. Picking and choosing areas to cooperate through integrated task forces might seem a logical way to proceed, in lieu of a regional police force (as many propose), but the scope of the problem is just too big for piecemeal solutions.

The RCMP has not been accountable to local governments and its disasters in BC are legion. They range over a long period of time from the botched investigation of the Air India bombing, to the taser death of Robert Dziekanski, to the tolerance of aberrant behaviour from the force itself. This includes the local complaints of systematic harassment of female members and civilian workers.

A big argument against renewing the RCMP’s contract was its failure to deal with local demands and complaints of racism and sexism both within the force and toward the public. This problem was at the heart of mismanagement of the murders of women in the DES.

RCMP problems in BC are not just in the distant past — most recently the RCMP sparked outrage over its decision to ship a Mountie who abused his position as head of a polygraph unit in Edmonton to B.C.

One important issue that Kathryn raises that needs careful consideration is the responsiveness of police to local accountability. All police forces in the Vancouver area are deficient in this. With the RCMP in control in 12 of the 17 municipalities in the lower mainland, Ottawa, rather than the region, is in primary control.

Establishing a regional police force will be a step toward making police in this province more responsive to local demands. Ensuring that the various municipalities cooperate in monitoring the police will be tall order, but it must be done. The policing tragedies are simply too monumental to ignore them.