The union representing Victoria’s uniformed police officers is questioning the timing of Esquimalt’s announcement last week that it prefers the RCMP over the Victoria Police Department to service the community.
The announcement was made after the close of the municipal candidate nomination period on Oct. 14, when it became official that Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins had no competitors in the election race.
That reeks of “pre-election grandstanding,” said Tom Stamatakis, president of the B.C. Police Association, which includes the Victoria City Police Union.
“Maybe if that announcement had been made earlier where there was an opportunity for a bit of a dialogue or a bit of a debate, who knows, maybe someone with a different perspective would have announced their intention to run against the mayor.”
Esquimalt’s decision, which would take more than $6 million away from VicPD’s annual budget, could lead to 30 to 40 job cuts for the newest officers, said Stamatakis, who is concerned the announcement is damaging officer morale.
“It’s brutal,” he said. “It’s very disconcerting. They don’t know what the timing of this is.”
He takes exception to the suggestion “that the service these members provide isn’t adequate or that, from a cost perspective, the citizens in Esquimalt aren’t getting a good deal.”
But Esquimalt residents and councillors say the union president is taking things too far.
“Barb (Desjardins) did not bring this on,” said Esquimalt council watchdog Rod Lavergne. “(Esquimalt’s decision) was forced out.”
“This was done the end of June,” Coun. Meagan Brame said, noting the Esquimalt Policing and Law Enforcement Advisory Panel’s decision was submitted to the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General on June 30.
“We were as baffled as everybody else as to why all of a sudden this did the whole blow-up thing,” Brame said, adding the panel and council didn’t want to reveal the choice before Solicitor General Shirley Bond made her decision.
“Why upset an apple cart when it might not fall over or it might, nobody knows,” said Brame. “Until it’s said and done and signed, there is no guarantee.
“Had we stayed quiet we would have been blamed of secrecy. We are darned if we do and darned if we don’t.”
It also shouldn’t come as a surprise to the police union and Victoria’s mayor and police chief that Esquimalt prefers the RCMP over VicPD, given the township’s issues at the Victoria Police Board level.
“If Victoria is surprised by this, where have they been?” Lavergne said.