Esquimalt eyes other policing options

Esquimalt is “exploring its options” for policing, the township’s mayor said.

“It is about an opportunity to review and see what alternative service provision could be provided, at what cost,” Barb Desjardins said at a press conference Friday.

On Thursday, Esquimalt issued a request for proposals on a policing model for the township to VicPD, Saanich police and the RCMP E division. Since 2003, Esquimalt has been policed by VicPD after its own force amalgamated with Victoria’s.

In 2009, the police services branch of the Solicitor General’s Ministry audited Esquimalt’s contract with VicPD. It found the level of service good, but also gave the township leeway to explore other policing options.

A law enforcement advisory board formed in August last year to help provide direction for policing the community. Esquimalt spent $45,000 on the task in 2010.

Desjardins said Esquimalt residents like some aspects of the current policing model, but are looking for changes.

In forums and open houses, residents communicated a desire for a community-based policing models with more officers on foot patrol and a police department building open 24-7 in Esquimalt.

“It’s not to say what we’ve got isn’t good, it’s to say, ‘Is there something better?’ … and that’s what we’re asking with the RFP,” Desjardins said.

Deputy chief John Ducker said VicPD was surprised by the RFP. He added Esquimalt already gets the best level of policing it could ask for.

“It’s a mistake to overly prioritize issues around community policing,” said Ducker, who has lived in Esquimalt for 40 years. “They are getting the best service that can be provided to any community.”

Ducker said: “I am a little concerned (the provincial government) would not have put more effort into the negotiations between Esquimalt and VicPD. We could have worked out our problems in eight years.”

It is up to Victoria’s and Saanich’s police boards to decide whether they will submit a proposal.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said it’s too early to say whether the police board would submit a proposal. The board is still examining the RFP.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said his police board would make that decision this week.

Cpl. Darren Lagan with the RCMP E division said its operational strategies branch will prepare a submission for policing Esquimalt.

Esquimalt is seeking a 10-year contract with a five-year renewal option.

The township currently pays about 15 per cent of VicPD’s $42-million budget.

A shortened, 15-page version of the 300-plus page RFP is available at www.esquimalt.ca.

ecardone@vicnews.com