A Vancouver Police Board committee is urging the provincial government to adopt a regional police force in Metro Vancouver and to create a corresponding oversight body.
The governance committee, which is chaired by board member Wade Grant, outlined its rationale for a regional force in a set of recommendations in response to the report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.
“The board supports a regional policing model as a more effective and efficient way to deliver policing services in the Lower Mainland,” said the report, which will go before the board Feb. 19 for a vote. “The board also believes that civilian oversight is vital to effective policing.”
Although the board has discussed regional policing and supported the concept in recommendations to the Inquiry, this is this first time the full seven-person board will vote on the need to create a structure to overhaul the current patchwork of municipal and RCMP departments in Metro Vancouver.
The board committee’s recommendation comes after both Mayor Gregor Robertson and Police Chief Jim Chu have stated publicly in recent months their support for a regional police force.
Robertson is the chairperson of the police board. Six citizens, including a lawyer, an accountant, an economic development coordinator and business people are the other members.
Creating a regional force was one of the key recommendations in the Missing Women report authored by Commissioner Wally Oppal.
So far, Premier Christy Clark and NDP leader Adrian Dix have sidestepped the call for a regional force. Mayors from Surrey, Delta and Port Moody are among suburban leaders opposed to creating one force for Metro Vancouver. They’re worried they lose their officers to more high-profile city crimes.
The board’s governance committee also analyzed three other Oppal recommendations, including the mayor not have voting authority on the police board.
The board has long identified the inherent conflict with having the mayor as chairperson of the board. Robertson has also told the Courier he would prefer not to be the chairperson, although current municipal rules state a sitting mayor becomes the de facto head of the board.
“The board recognizes that the mayor’s presence on the board enhances a valuable link with the City,” said the board committee’s report. “This is an issue where further discussion and analysis would be welcomed.”
Oppal also wants additional steps to be taken to ensure representation of vulnerable, marginalized and aboriginal people on police boards.
Over the years, the Vancouver board has had representation from the aboriginal community, including Grant who is a member of the Musqueam Indian Band.
The board has previously requested it increase its size by at least two members. The governance committee believes an expansion “would permit more flexibility in recruitment.”
Oppal was critical of the Vancouver board sitting between 1997 and 2002 when women went missing from the Downtown Eastside, saying it was “ineffective in carrying out its oversight mandate.”
He recommended in his report that police boards have access to greater resources from the government’s police services branch “to gather and analyze information to enable them to better carry out their oversight functions.”
The board’s governance committee agreed in its report.