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Regional police force still needed, says Richmond councillor

Ken Johnston says a regional police force would be more accountable than a national police force. -
Ken Johnston says a regional police force would be more accountable than a national police force.
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B.C. has reached a new 20-year deal for RCMP services, but a local councillor said Monday a regional force is still the better option.

"I still believe over the longer term, a regional police force would be more accountable and would give us a greater way of communicating and doing things differently than a national police force," said Coun. Ken Johnston.

At Monday's city council meeting, civic politicians added pedestrian safety and establishing a downtown community police presence to the Richmond RCMP's policing plan for 2012-2013.

Johnston said he's pleased with the city's relationship with the local branch of its Ottawa-based police force, noting Richmond has one of the lowest crime rates in B.C. But the councillor said his preference still lies with a regional force.

"It's not going to happen tomorrow, it may not happen ever, but longer term that's the direction we should be going."

B.C. has an agreement in principle with the federal government on a new RCMP contract, which would cover the 150 communities in B.C. served by the force. The contract is believed to still have opt-out clauses, under which any city could form its own municipal force or the province could form its own provincial force.

John Cummins, the leader of the B.C. Conservative Party and former MP in Richmond, has promised, if elected, an independent review of RCMP services to determine if they adequately serve the province.

Cummins said the RCMP management structure has become "inept and outdated," and questioned how a federal police force can tackle international terrorism and also provide community policing in dozens of small and large B.C. communities.

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