Last week in the News, Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard threw down somewhat of an editorial gauntlet in front of VicPD with his views on community policing and Saanich’s “no policing call too small” policy.
Mayor Leonard’s words were clear enough, but his unspoken implication is also pretty simple: Saanich provides a comprehensive community-based approach to policing, which works, while Victoria and Esquimalt provides a limited, reactive call response approach, which doesn’t.
Unfortunately, most of Mayor Leonard’s assertions are false or inaccurate and I’m mystified why he feels the need to keep taking these shots at us.
For example, Mayor Leonard asserts that VicPD does not attend false alarms, noisy house parties and break and enters.
This is patently untrue. Since Jan. 1, VicPD has attended 344 noise complaints, 233 break and enters and 229 alarms. Why these bald assertions about another police department’s operations would be made without checking into the facts astounds me.
For some years now, VicPD has not attended alarm complaints where we know to a virtual certainty they will be false. No one is breaking into the front door of a shopping mall or a school at 11 a.m. on a day they are wide open for business. This has saved our taxpayers the costs of responding to 3,000 to 5,000 false calls per year and allowed us to direct scarce resources to providing actual police service to the community, not window dressing.
I’ve been writing for nearly four years now on a blog about the work of our officers on the streets of Esquimalt and Victoria. Whether it’s helping an elderly person get back into their bed, or rescuing a dog from an overheated car, I remain amazed at the number of “small calls” our uniformed response officers routinely handle with courteous and diligent professionalism.
In addition, as I scan our organizational chart I see that we devote approximately 17 full-time staff members to what I consider community policing functions, be they community resource officers, school liaison, integrated outreach teams or volunteer co-ordinators.
Many of our programs have been recognized at the national and international level for their efficiency and innovation. Combined with our leadership on the social media front, I’ll hold our product up against anyone else’s.
Where our responses differ from Mayor Leonard’s policing philosophies stem from us not having the luxury of simply ignoring the region’s most difficult crime and social problems.
It’s no secret to VicPD members that many of the region’s hardcore drug dealers, organized criminals and party crowd live in the outlying areas, which most certainly includes Saanich.
The criminal element of these groups ply their trade on the streets of our downtown core and often retire to the bedroom communities, where not enough attention is paid to them. After 34 years I could fill a police notebook with instances where outlying agencies have either declined outright or simply don’t have the true capacity to deal with serious criminal elements living in their communities, leaving it to VicPD to handle or simply allow the problem to be ignored.
The model of regional integration currently being discussed won’t help either. It doesn’t go far enough to include core policing functions such as traffic, identification units, detectives or K9 and how we could use economy of scale to reduce all of our workloads. It unfortunately has remained at the level of things like the dive team, used by VicPD once in the last two years, and other ancillary functions which have virtually no meaningful impact on anyone’s policing services.
It also creates a cumbersome process of management by consensus, where four or more people end up being in charge and no one is actually accountable for service delivery.
So to respond to Mayor Leonard’s question: “Are you willing to pay for the cost of this community policing model?” My answer is: “I wish I could afford to, by freeing up the taxpayers and officers of Esquimalt and Victoria from having to subsidize your luxury.”
John Ducker is deputy chief for administration with the Victoria Police Department.