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Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Esquimalt wants out of shared policing agreement with Victoria

Councillors vote unanimously not to renew shared policing agreement but it’s the province that will have final say on the issue.

By Shannon Waters
August 16, 2022
Policing
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Esquimalt wants out of shared policing agreement with Victoria

Councillors vote unanimously not to renew shared policing agreement but it’s the province that will have final say on the issue.

By Shannon Waters
Aug 16, 2022
Photo: Ryan Hook / Capital Daily
Photo: Ryan Hook / Capital Daily
Policing
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Esquimalt wants out of shared policing agreement with Victoria

Councillors vote unanimously not to renew shared policing agreement but it’s the province that will have final say on the issue.

By Shannon Waters
August 16, 2022
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Esquimalt wants out of shared policing agreement with Victoria
Photo: Ryan Hook / Capital Daily

A unanimous vote behind closed doors on Monday night began a process Esquimalt councillors hope will lead to the end of amalgamated police services in the township. 

Police services in Esquimalt and Victoria were amalgamated in 2002 by an order in council signed by BC Liberal public safety minister Rich Coleman and are governed by a framework agreement that is set to automatically renew at the end of 2023.

Instead of going ahead with that renewal, Esquimalt council voted to end the agreement, and to hire a consultant that will explore other policing possibilities for the township and come up with a plan to transition away from the jointly funded Victoria Police Department.

“We felt we had to signal that we need to look at other alternatives,” Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins told Capital Daily.

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Esquimalt began raising concerns about its share of policing costs in 2009 and, following a review that flagged the RCMP as a cheaper option for the township, proposed switching to the federal force in 2011. Nearly three-quarters of BC residents live in places policed by the RCMP. But the province rejected the proposal and “ongoing challenges” with the current set up have continued in the decade since, said Desjardins.

“We pay more than we feel we should for the services delivered and we have worked alongside the police board and with Victoria council to try and resolve those issues within the mechanisms of the framework agreement … but none of those have helped,” she said. “So at the beginning of this term, Esquimalt Council, in our strategic plan, said that we wanted to review all alternatives for provision of police services to the community.”

The township’s request for proposals seeking a consultant is set to launch tomorrow and close by mid-October. Desjardins expressed confidence council will have the consultant’s report by next spring and have an answer from the province on whether the municipality can pull out of the amalgamated police service before the agreement runs out at the end of next year.

But it will ultimately be up to Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth to grant or deny the township’s request.

Desjardins knows there is “no guarantee” the province will release Esquimalt from the joint policing situation but is hopeful that, by doing their homework, councillors will succeed in convincing the province a new police service model is the best way forward. She says the province has indicated that it will consider Esquimalt’s request.

“We're putting our money where our shots are and we're going out for that request for proposal.”

Esquimalt has requested $150,000 from the province to help prepare their proposal for a new policing model.

Recommended policing reforms will inform consultant’s work, says mayor

Victoria Police Chief Del Manak was “disappointed” in Esquimalt’s decision.

“I’m hopeful that when government reviews this, it will be viewed through the lens of the recommendations from the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act, specific to a regional approach to a fragmented policing structure,” Manak said in a statement.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps was on vacation and not available for comment on Tuesday, but has expressed frustration in the past at the stalled progress toward further amalgamation of the region’s police forces.  

Desjardins noted that the special committee’s report, which Minister Farnworth received in April, made specific recommendations “to address fragmentation” of police services “where there are opportunities” by launching regional police forces.

The report also highlights the unique situation in Victoria and Esquimalt, which it notes are “the only two local governments in the province that share a local police department.” 

The committee heard from law enforcement and municipal leaders who said that “when the cities of Victoria and Esquimalt were brought together by the province in 2002 through an Order in Council, it was understood that this would be the first step towards regional integration of policing in the Capital Region, but this has not happened.”

Council’s vote is timely in two ways, Desjardins said.

“It's at the end of the framework agreements and perhaps timely for the province because it comes on the heels of that information,” she said, adding she is hoping Victoria City Council will support Esquimalt’s effort.

“I don't know what the City of Victoria wants to do,” Desjardins said. “We're prepared to do the work here. But we also need them to be at the table around transition.”

Article Author's Profile Picture
Shannon Waters
Municipal affairs reporter

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