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Richmond moves closer to new police force

Richmond Advantage

Richmond civic politicians are favouring an independent municipal police force to possibly replace the RCMP.

“We’re going to get a little bit more information, but the intent is to look seriously at an independent Richmond police department,” said Coun. Derek Dang, chair of council’s community safety committee. “The idea of going this way is to improve, not to detract from, what we have already.”

Late Wednesday, staff presented the committee with several alternatives to the Mounties, including amalgamating with another municipal force such as the Vancouver Police Department. Ultimately, committee ordered staff to research an independent Richmond force, which would contract specialized police units—such as an emergency response team—from another city.

Dang said he hoped Richmond council could decide in the early new year whether to seriously pursue the option, which he believes would deliver better service, governance and accountability.

“Those are the items the RCMP hasn’t been able to address,” he said.

Local councillors don’t have an appetite to join Vancouver as a combined force—despite some cost savings Vancouver suggested would result.

“It looks enticing, but the idea was to start with the independent Richmond force first. In the future if the province decides to go regional, then we’d be prepared to do that at that point,” said Dang.

A staff report suggests a new municipal force would be costly. One-time costs could total $2.7 million, and transition costs are pegged at $20 to $36 million.

But Dang called the numbers a “scare tactic.” He referenced a 2009 provincial report that stated initial costs for B.C. to start a province-wide force was $17 million.

“How can you as a little city have more costs to do a transition than an entire province?” he said. “How can that happen?”

Coun. Bill McNulty said with a municipal force, the city wouldn’t have a contract “forced upon us” and would give local control over strategy, hiring of senior officers and costs—particularly of specialized teams, which staff say Richmond overpays for.

“I believe we are at a critical stage in the community with regard to community safety and policing,” said McNulty. “This would give the city control of the level of service we want and need.”

If council decides to go ahead with a municipal force, Richmond could become the first city to break from a new 20-year contract with the RCMP in B.C.

The RCMP, meanwhile, contends it provides Richmond with the best service for the lowest cost.

Insp. Ted De Jager of the B.C. RCMP, known as E Division, said Richmond spends less on policing per capita compared to cities with independent municipal forces.

De Jager also noted RCMP salary increases were six per cent from 2008 to 2012, while salaries of municipal police officers increased by 14 per cent in the same period. As for funding of integrated teams, De Jager said the costing formula was determined by municipalities several years ago, not the RCMP.

“The RCMP has provided policing services to the City of Richmond for over 50 years and we continue to enjoy a well established working relationship.”

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