Esquimalt mayor calls for regional police force, Victoria police chief agrees
VICTORIA -- The issue of an amalgamated regional police force came up again on Monday night in an Esquimalt council meeting. The municipality says its policing partnership with the Victoria Police Department is no longer working and it is paying for resources that are being deployed into neighbouring Victoria.
In 2003, the then-Solicitor General of British Columbia, Rich Coleman, forced Esquimalt and Victoria into a policing partnership. At the time, he had this to say on the forced marriage:
“We’re going to take the leadership now, we will come up with the model of integration,” said Coleman. “We will take it through as an order in council.”
It was a policing partnership mandated by the province and held up as a framework that other municipalities would soon follow.
But now, nearly 20 years later, local officials say things have changed.
“This marriage between Esquimalt and Victoria is not working,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.
Eighteen years later, Esquimalt and Victoria remain the only municipalities in the region that share one police force. Esquimalt says it is paying for officers it doesn’t need and who spend most of their shift next door.
“Thirty per cent of the time that Esquimalt division is operating, it is going to Vic West,” said Desjardins.
CTV News asked Victoria Police Chief Del Manak if this does in fact regularly occur.
“Yes, it does,” said Manak. “As a police chief I have to make sure that I’m able to respond in an operational manner, to what the crime is that’s occurring.”
The police chief supports the idea of a regional police force among the four major municipalities in the region, Victoria, Esquimalt, Saanich and Oak Bay.
“I think it makes sense,” said Manak. “I think it’s cost-effective and it provides an efficient deployment of resources.”
In September of last year, Esquimalt council was given a report from the province. It confirms that Esquimalt is currently paying for more officers than it needs.
“We could probably reduce around four officers,” said the Mayor of Esquimalt. “That would save Esquimalt another $1-million in policing costs.”
Right now, Esquimalt is allocated 24 officers in its agreement with VicPD.
Mike Farnworth, B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, says he would be willing to entertain separate regional police forces, but needs the municipal governments to buy in.
“If we were to hear from local governments that this was something that they wanted to do, then we would certainly be prepared to move forward on something like that,” said Farnworth.
Within the report, both Esquimalt and Victoria say they are looking to end the partnership.