Police amalgamation not an option for Saanich mayoral candidates

Saanich mayoral candidates say amalgamating Greater Victoria police departments would be of no benefit

A regional police force would be a detriment to Saanich residents who’ve come to enjoy a community-based police department, says one of the candidates hoping to be elected mayor in November.

David Cubberley, responding to comments from Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin about amalgamating policing services, thinks the Victoria’s plan would be of no benefit to Saanich.

“I think inevitably coverage would be drained off towards downtown. You’re going to pay more and you’re going to lose some of the service you have today if amalgamation occurs,” Cubberley said. “We have to coax Victoria to regionalize (particular) services, rather than trying the whole enchilada and have them taking over the whole region’s police force.”

Mayor Frank Leonard agrees, citing successes in the specialized units in which Saanich police participate, such as the Regional Crime Unit, regional Traffic Safety Unit and Emergency Response Team.

“We in Saanich support the provincial policy of community-based policing, with integrated specialized and support services … so we can be more effective by working together,” Leonard said.

Leonard, who’s been mayor of Saanich since 1996, says past Victoria mayors he’s worked with, including Alan Lowe and Robert Cross, have also called for a lone regional police force.

“No matter who’s mayor or who said something during a political campaign, you need to work together (once the election is over),” he said.

Fortin’s comments came Friday after Solicitor General Shirley Bond announced she’s appointed someone to review ongoing concerns as they relate to the Victoria Police Department’s policing of Esquimalt.

“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.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins says that can’t happen until things change locally.

“I keep saying, if we can’t resolve (Esquimalt and Victoria’s) issues how do we expect anything further to happen in the region?” Desjardins said.

VicPD has policed Esquimalt since 2003, but in March, Esquimalt sought policing proposals from neighbouring departments. Saanich declined to bid, leaving the race to VicPD and the RCMP’s E division.

Saanich police Sgt. Dean Jantzen says any changes are out of their control.

“Where we can find an efficiency or a more effective way of delivering a service by way of a regional partnership that makes sense, then we’re always willing to explore those opportunities,” he said. “By exploring  integrated options, not an amalgamated police service, there has to be a net benefit to our community, whether it be financial or a better delivery of service.

Cubberley, like Leonard, says if elected he’ll urge Victoria to participate in regionalization talks, but solely in regards to services that would benefit from integration.

“(Regionalizing) doesn’t solve any problems that Saanich has,” he said. “Saanich is well-served by having its own police force and I don’t see a reason that we can’t find a way to co-operate on functions that would benefit from regionalization.”

David Shebib, the third mayoral candidate, could not be reached by press time.

– with files from Erin Cardone

and Erin McCracken

kslavin@saanichnews.com

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