Amalgamated Victoria-Esquimalt police service here to stay

Esquimalt will continue to be policed by the Victoria Police Department.

Justice Minister Shirley Bond’s decision, announced today, effectively kills the township’s request last June to switch to the RCMP.

“We’re very disappointed,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, who chairs the Esquimalt Policing and Law Enforcement Advisory Panel, which made the request to change policing providers.

“They have completely ignored the panel process, the process that they put in place originally,” she said. “It’s really an insult to the panel. Amalgamation is not the decision of the panel.”

But Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, who serves as the Victoria Police Board chair, is elated.

“We’ve been delivered some certainty. We’ve been delivered a blueprint for the future, how we can improve the services of an amalgamated force for all the citizens,” he said.

Though Esquimalt will continue to be policed by Victoria officers, the province has ordered several changes at the police board level.

The Victoria Police Board was the subject of a review late last year amid ongoing disagreements over funding and governance models, as well as concerns over the absence of a formal complaint process.

The recommendations made in mediator Jean Greatbatch’s 34-page report, entitled, “A Framework for Effectiveness,” form the basis of the minister’s decision to remain with the amalgamated model.

“I want to ensure that policing in Esquimalt and Victoria is fair and effective for both parties,” Bond said in a statement. “That’s why we are taking specific steps to support them in creating a new framework for policing.”

A facilitator will be appointed to help develop a new framework agreement by Oct. 31, in an effort to improve police board relations, by improving the service delivery model, establishing an equitable funding formula and an open budget process, and creating a conflict-resolution process.

As well, two new community advisory committees will be created by Nov. 30, allowing residents to provide input on policing to the board.

The board will also be restructured by Oct. 31 to provide more collaboration. The mediator also suggested the board be led by two co-chairs, but that will only be decided as the framework agreement is negotiated. Fortin currently chairs the board, with Desjardins as vice-chair.

The framework agreement will be reviewed in three years by the provincial director of police services.

An emergency Esquimalt council meeting will be held early next week to address next steps for the township.

emccracken@vicnews.com

See the full report, “A Framework for Effectiveness,” at www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/policeservices/shareddocs/report_on_victoria_esquimalt_policing.pdf

 

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