After months of speculation, and a recent outcry from Esquimalt residents who complained they were being kept in the dark, the township announced Tuesday the RCMP is the preferred policing provider over the Victoria Police Department.
“At the end of the day, I believe this is a good thing because what it does is allow the (police) board, it allows Esquimalt and it allows Victoria to now get on with the business of moving forward with some understanding of what the future is,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.
“The RCMP best met the (request-for-proposal) criteria and the scope of work, which is why they ended up being our preferred proponent,” Desjardins said.
The announcement came after Esquimalt’s Policing and Law Enforcement Advisory Panel reached an impasse that could not be resolved without making its policing choice known.
It’s unfortunate, said Desjardins, that Esquimalt’s choice had to be announced before the solicitor general could consider the proposal.
“My utmost concern is for how this unfortunately had to roll out to the (police) rank and file, and I did not want that to happen,” she said. “But clearly things were spiraling out of control in the media, such that somebody needed to put some clarity toward it.”
Esquimalt’s stalemate arose when the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General asked the advisory panel to flesh out a report detailing its preferred choice, which the township submitted at the end of June. The ministry asked for more information on human resources, labour relations, financial and contractual issues, among other items.
But to answer those questions, the panel needed to go back to the RCMP for more information, but couldn’t out of concern the proponents would learn which had been chosen ahead of the ministry’s decision.
“We wanted to make sure that the proponents both heard about (our choice) outside the media, as well as the solicitor general,” Desjardins said.
That process can now continue.
“It allows us to work with the RCMP and if there’s information that we need to get from VicPD as well … we can do that in an open way …,” Desjardins said.
Residents still won’t learn why the RCMP was chosen over VicPD.
“I know residents will have a number of questions as to whys,” Desjardins said, adding that those details cannot be released because the request-for-proposals had a clause promising confidentiality to the bidders.
In response, Victoria mayor and chair of the Victoria Police Board Dean Fortin hopes Solicitor General Shirley Bond will step in and start a dialogue about regionalized policing for Greater Victoria.
“Now is the time that we really look for the provincial government for leadership,” Fortin said. “So we’re hoping that the solicitor general will take a look, get involved and actively give a level of policing that the good citizens, I think, in Greater Victoria want to see and happen.
“We’ve all generally agreed that the best policing would be an integrated model, a model of regionalization, and we see this decision as a step backwards,” Fortin said, but declined to elaborate on what that model would involve.
“We need to look forward on looking at regionalization … Bad guys don’t know borders.”
Given Esquimalt’s preference for the RCMP, Desjardins acknowledged the tension the decision may create at the police board level.
Still, she remains optimistic now that the ministry has ordered a review to address governance, financing and dispute resolution issues that have plagued Esquimalt and Victoria since their policing was amalgamated in 2003.
The review, conducted by Jean Greatbatch, a human resources specialist, is expected to begin in the coming days, and recommendations are to be submitted to the ministry’s police services division by Jan. 30.
The review comes at a critical time as police budget discussions are expected to begin soon. Esquimalt refused to pay the full balance of its annual policing bill earlier this year.