A policing framework agreement between Victoria and Esquimalt is finally in place after 18 months of negotiations.
Esquimalt will receive a dedicated division of 25 VicPD officers and Mayor Barb Desjardins will receive co-chair status on the Victoria-Esquimalt Police Board, a key recommendation of a 2012 mediator’s report funded by the province.
“This is a win-win-win situation for Esquimalt, Victoria and the police board,” Desjardins said at a joint press conference Thursday at Esquimalt municipal hall. “It’s a phenomenal agreement.”
The framework agreement is part of a mandated process set out in June 2012 by then-B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond, when Esquimalt was told to stick with police services provided by VicPD despite the township’s desire to contract RCMP services.
The new agreement allows both municipalities to opt in and out of “optional resources” with board approval, though it wasn’t immediately clear what services are considered optional. Specific policies stemming from the agreement must be finalized Jan. 1, 2015.
Esquimalt will pay the City of Victoria $142,000 for police services funding owed from previous years, but will save about $105,000 this year and an estimated $330,000 annually once the new payment method is implemented by 2016, Desjardins said.
Victoria’s share of policing costs will increase from 84.4 per cent to 85.3 per cent by 2016, while Esquimalt’s share will decrease from 15.2 per cent to 14.7 per cent over the same period.
Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said Victoria’s 2014-2018 draft financial plan already incorporates the anticipated cost increases resulting from the agreement, and the city has already taken steps to offset those costs through reductions at city hall.
VicPD Chief Frank Elsner said the agreement marks an “historic day for the organization,” and said he was proud of the work put in by his officers as negotiations advanced.
Provincial mediator Jean Greatbatch’s 34-page report, A Framework for Effectiveness, called for VicPD to be renamed the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Department, and recommended rebranding take place within six months. Today’s announcement makes clear that rebranding won’t happen, though some cruisers will be branded with Esquimalt logos. Nonetheless, both mayors are promoting the agreement as a positive step forward in their rocky relationship.
“This process was necessary to ensure the community gets what it wants, and we now have a mechanism for disputes, which wasn’t previously in place,” Desjardins said.
VicPD will also undergo an external efficiency review in the coming months.
The newly inked policing agreement is largely considered the first step towards regional policing in Greater Victoria, a model recommended by missing women inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal for both the Capital Region and Metro Vancouver.
The B.C. Justice Ministry is currently undertaking a provincewide review of policing services and policies, including the explorations of “further integration of services, while at the same time retaining local community-focused policing.”
Desjardins and Fortin said the agreement allows other Capital Region municipalities to join in future, should they feel compelled to do so.