OLD NEWS: This week in Saanich history – Feb. 23-March 1

The News’ weekly historical feature looks at the long-debated idea of amalgamating police departments in Greater Victoria

Pressure from Victoria to amalgamate the city’s police department with Saanich’s dates back at least 25 years.

An article in the Feb. 22-28, 1989 edition of the Gordon Head/Saanich News states Victoria council suggested combining the forces amid discussion to build a new civic complex around Centennial Square.

Then-Saanich police chief Bill Nixon was “less than enthusiastic” about the proposal, saying: “(Operating) out of the downtown core would not be very practical for us.”

In recent years Victoria’s police chiefs have continued to push for such a partnership. Former Chief Const. Jamie Graham, in November 2011, presented Victoria’s strategic plan, centred around having a regionwide police force by 2020.

“We don’t know what we will call it. It could be the Saanich-Victoria Regional Force,” Graham said. “I don’t know. It doesn’t matter to us.”

Saanich’s new police chief, Bob Downie, says this topic of discussion dates back much further than 1989.

“The amalgamation of police services in the region has been a topic of discussion even before I became involved in policing … in 1979,” he said.“Our focus is, and always has been, to provide a high quality service to the public,” Downie said. “We have to ensure that the service is provided in a fiscally responsible manner, and one that makes sense for those we serve, both within Saanich and regionally.  … Amalgamation is a political issue and not the focus of operational policing.”

editor@saanichnews.com

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In other news this week

• 1992 – A community meeting was held in Cadboro Bay to discuss the future of Haro Woods. At the time there was a recommendation being considered that would have allowed up to half of the woods to be developed.

• 1998 – Dustin Olson, 23, was sentenced to life in prison for the November violent 1996 murder of his aunt Donna Grant. He subsequently appealed and was found guilty again in 2000, with another life sentence imposed. He was granted full parole, with conditions, in August 2012.

• 2000 – Kevin Black, a member of the West Coast Players gang, was shot and killed Feb. 29 in a Shelbourne Street home. While two men were initially arrested, David Niebergall pleaded guilty to second degree murder in 2001. He was granted full parole, with conditions, in March 2010.