The New Westminster Police Board plans to forge stronger ties with city council as part of its plan to ponder policing reforms.
The police board recently approved a nine-part motion put forward by Mayor Jonathan Cote related to police reform, including redirecting police resources away from laws that criminalize vulnerable people toward public health or community care initiatives and developing a diversity and inclusion framework to guide the direction of community policing. The motion also calls on the police board to engage with the province, members of the police department, residents and groups that represent those who have experienced discrimination, and city council.
“I have had discussions with New West city council members and they are very interested in this work,” said Cote, who also chairs the police board. “I think the police board would be well-served to develop a close working relationship. … I don’t know exactly what that is going to look like but, to me, I think having a close working relationship between the police board and New Westminster city council is going to be incredibly crucial in this work.”
The chief constable and the senior management team are responsible for the day-to-day management and operation of the police department, while the police board provides oversight and direction to ensure the department is acting in accordance with the Police Act. The board also works with the department to develop a strategic plan, an annual plan/budget and policies.
New Westminster is among the B.C. municipalities served by its own police force, rather than the RCMP. The City of New Westminster’s 2020 budget indicates policing is the most costly service in the city’s operating budget, representing $31.6 million of the $135 million budgeted for general services.
One part of Cote’s motion calls on the police board to work in collaboration with New Westminster city council on the various police reform initiatives being pursued. It’s also recommended that the police board collaborate with city council to develop and implement a culturally-safe engagement plan.
“We need to dig a lot deeper and reach folks with different experiences. I think there are a number of organizations that have take really critical roles in leading this advocacy work. I would love to see us engage directly with those groups and with residents to be able to participate,” Cote said. “I think this is also a really big opportunity to connect with city council and the work of the city. Public engagement is something the City of New Westminster has always strived to have a high level with, and I think this is a particular opportunity where we are going to want to connect with the city.”
While New Westminster city council must be part of the work being done locally, Cote also wants the police department to look further afield when considering police reform.
“I also want us to be ensuring we are keeping an eye on what discussions are happening in communities all around the world,” he said. “We are not the only police board, not the only police department having these conversations. I don’t want this work to be done in isolation.”
The New Westminster Police Department will report back to the police board and city council on police reforms by the end of 2020.
This is part of a series of stories running in the Record in response to calls for police reform.