EDITORIAL: Time to take aim at regional police force

With discussions on the amalgamation of the 13 Capital Region communities seemingly on an endless loop with a resolution nowhere in sight, the time has come for the region to look at getting the most bang for the buck.

An idea that has been floated around various council chambers for years is gaining new traction through the efforts of a local financial watchdog group. The Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria says that after years of discussion, creating a regional police force would save taxpayers money, and police departments a lot of overlap.

Saanich tried to jumpstart talks on a regional police force back in late-2017 when then-mayor Richard Atwell invited the region’s mayors to a meeting on the subject. Only Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay and Central Saanich maintain municipal police forces, with other CRD communities contracting police through the RCMP.

The concern has always been that a regional police force would concentrate resources in downtown Victoria, but the local politicians could certainly devise a system to ensure their respective community’s interest was taken into account.

Grumpy Taxpayer$ president Stan Bartlett points out that police costs continue to escalate, with a consolidation of services promising some relief for taxpayers.

And those administrative costs can be steep. There was a firestorm when it was learned in 2017 that Saanich paid Chief Constable Bob Downie $378,790 following his retirement, only to rehire him as a contractor, with an annual salary of about $222,711 plus benefits.

READ MORE: Saanich mayor defends compensation for top cop

In an effort to bring costs under control Victoria council has been looking to trim costs to its police budget, a move that could put jobs on the line according to VicPD.

READ MORE: Nine jobs at the Victoria Police Department at risk after budget decision

An amalgamation of police services would offer a fresh approach to bring costs in line for all communities. It would also lead to more co-ordination in dealing with the crime that doesn’t stop at municipal borders. VicPD and the mayors of Victoria and Esquimalt are all supportive of the change. They need to bring their political counterparts to the table to iron out the details of what amalgamated police services could bring to all communities in the region.

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