Region’s mayors to put policing under the microscope

Oak Bay’s mayor extending invitation to open dialogue on policing solutions

The mayor of Oak Bay is inviting the region’s mayors over for an “open and frank discussion” on policing in the region.

The single-issue meeting, to be held early in the new year, may allow leaders to identify “a better way” to deliver policing to the region’s municipalities more efficiently and cost-effectively, said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen.

The mayors could look at the pros and cons of a regional police service, something Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin and Victoria police Chief Const. Jamie Graham have been advocating.

Consolidation of policing services will likely also be a topic of interest at the meeting, Jensen said.

“We certainly want to hold out that the Oak Bay-Saanich model is one that could work regionally,” he said, noting that Oak Bay council recently extended its contract with Saanich to use some of the district’s policing services.

The meeting is about exploring options, Jensen said.

“I’m sure there’s other innovative ways to deliver policing services, and that’s one of the reasons I want to start the dialogue with the other mayors,” he said.

“I certainly heard during the (November municipal election) campaign that, even in Oak Bay, people want to ensure that they have the proper and efficient policing services for the whole region,” said Jensen.

Leaders have a responsibility to listen to the plethora of letters to the editor and editorials written on the issue, he said.

The mayoral talk is especially timely given the contentious relationship between Victoria and Esquimalt representatives on the Victoria Police Board. Esquimalt and Victoria’s police services were amalgamated in 2003.

Esquimalt announced in October its preference is to be policed by the RCMP rather than the Victoria Police Department. The township has submitted paperwork asking B.C.’s Solicitor General Shirley Bond for permission to make the switch.

The ministry is expecting the results of an independent review of the troubled amalgamation by the end of the month.

In that context, “I think (policing is) going to be a tough issue to sort out, there’s no question about that,” Jensen said. “But until we sit down and start talking about it we’re not going to know what the way forward is.”

At the upcoming meeting, the mayors will likely examine several policing models, “… one of them being the Esquimalt model where there’s an amalgamated force (with Victoria), and we’ve seen the fallout from that,” said Nils Jensen. “On the other hand we have the Oak Bay-Saanich model that seems to be working very well.”

Other models include RCMP operations in Langford, Colwood, View Royal, Metchosin, Highlands and Sooke, as well as North Saanich and Sidney. Victoria, Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Saanich and Central Saanich have municipal police services.

A date for the mayoral meeting on policing has not been fixed.