Mayor Gregor Robertson is urging all Lower Mainland candidates running in the May provincial election to declare whether they support the creation of a regional police force.
With no consensus from area mayors or police chiefs on the concept, Robertson said the election is an opportunity to “break the logjam” on creating such a force.
“It would be great to see candidates for the Legislature across the region put their cards on the table,” he told reporters Tuesday after a Vancouver Police Board meeting at the Cambie Street police station. “I think that would speak volumes as to what’s possible and, ultimately, it will be the next premier that is going to need to lead the charge with any dramatic changes to how we police the region.”
Premier Christy Clark and NDP leader Adrian Dix continue to sidestep the issue while mayors in Surrey, Delta, Richmond and Port Moody have publicly stated their opposition to a regional force.
They say they’re satisfied with their current policing structures and are worried larger municipalities such as Vancouver would suck up resources and water down policing services in the suburbs.
The topic, which has been bandied about for years in the Lower Mainland, surfaced again in December after Wally Oppal recommended in his final report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry that a regional police force be created.
Oppal’s report, titled Forsaken, noted one of the “critical police failures” in the missing women investigations between 1997 and 2002 was the failure to address cross-jurisdictional issues and the ineffective coordination between police forces and agencies.
Vancouver is surrounded by a hodgepodge of RCMP and municipal detachments, including Delta, New Westminster and West Vancouver.
The Vancouver Police Department called for a regional police force in its recommendations to the Inquiry. Police Chief Jim Chu further stated the department’s support for such a force at Tuesday’s press conference.
“We believe it’s more efficient and effective and we believe there will be safer communities throughout our region,” Chu said.
Chu and Robertson took questions from reporters after Deputy Chief Doug LePard updated the police board on the steps the department has taken related to Oppal’s recommendations.
Of the 63 recommendations, LePard noted only one applies directly to the VPD. Oppal called for the VPD to establish a liaison officer whose responsibilities should include assisting aboriginal people in their interactions with the force’s missing persons unit.
LePard said Insp. Mario Giardini of the VPD’s diversity unit is now responsible for that work. The VPD is also working with the City of Vancouver to follow up on a recommendation calling for new measures to reduce the number of court warrants issued for minor offences.
Oppal also called for the city to create and fund two community-based liaison positions to be filled by individuals who have experience in the survival sex trade.
LePard was to meet Wednesday with Mary Clare Zak of the city’s social policy department and former lieutenant-governor Steven Point to discuss the recommendations. The government appointed Point to ensure recommendations were implemented with input from family of the missing and murdered woman, most of whom were aboriginal.
The bulk of the 63 recommendations apply to the provincial government and its police services branch.