B.C. Solicitor General says no to Greater Victoria regional police force
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said establishing a regional police force would be an opportunity for the province to lead on public safety, on Sept. 4, 2019. (CTV Vancouver Island)
With more people moving to the South Island, policing the streets is becoming a growing challenge.
To try to meet the challenge, Victoria city council unanimously supported a request to B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth for regional police force. Farnworth responded to the request with a resounding no.
In a letter to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps dated July 5, Mike Farnworth said: "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."
However, the idea of all 13 municipalities in the Capital Region agreeing to one regional police force is unlikely.
"It's not going to happen so we won't have an amalgamated police force in this region," Helps said Wednesday. "I don't know if that is the best value for tax dollars or the best approach to public safety."
With Victoria police cutting back on services and disbanding units due to funding, the issue of policing may be at a critical stage.
"If we have a police chief saying he has a crisis on his hands, we have a city council asking for help, [Farnworth] needs to provide leadership," said Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Catherine Holt. "As soon as you talk about safety in the downtown core, it's a regional issue."
Holt said governments tend to respond to crises and she feels the city is on the cusp of as crisis.
"I think that is what [Victoria Police Chief] Del Manak is telling us. I think the city council is concerned," said Holt. "I hate to think it's going to take a crisis, but often it does."
Helps said it is Farnworth's job to figure out how to most effectively create public safety across the province and said she feels this is a real opportunity to take leadership.
"There is nothing that can be done so we are stuck with the status quo," said Helps.
Farnworth said in his letter to the city that he is committed to working with local governments in the CRD on furthering police service integration in the region and exploring regional service delivery options.
He closed his letter by writing that he welcomes the opportunity to consider any proposals presented jointly by the CRD and the municipalities involved.
Victoria city councillors are scheduled to discuss Farnworth's letter at Thursday's committee of the whole meeting.