Richmond to buy cars for cops in wake of policy

A six-figure line item for the RCMP caused a stir Monday at the budget table of a city already mulling a switch to its own police force.

A change in RCMP policy is now preventing officers from taking police vehicles home overnight, forcing senior officers responding to after-hours incidents or events to first pick up a cop car at the Shellmont detachment, instead of heading directly to the scene.

The city's head of community safety, Phyllis Carlyle, said the policy was "not acceptable." The city's fix is to spend $105,000 to buy four vehicles for the Richmond RCMP's senior leadership team.

"We expect our officers to come from their homes directly to the incident. So when I arrive at a plane crash, I want to see that the officer in charge is already there because he has lights and siren and has gotten there before me," said Carlyle.

The city will retain ownership of the vehicles, meaning the officers will be free to take them home. The city will also recoup the cost by reducing the RCMP's budget by the vehicles' cost.

"We're essentially switching one for the other," said Carlyle.

Council's finance committee ultimately endorsed the item, along with the rest of the $185.9-million capital plan for 2014.

But hearing of the policy prompted a letter from council signed by Mayor Malcolm Brodie to E-Division and a scolding from Coun. Bill McNulty, who called the policy "more RCMP downloading."

"I'd like to know how many cars are parked in the RCMP parking lot that they can't take home. They should be entitled to do that if they're out 24/7," he said. "I think the RCMP needs to be looking at its navel on this one."

Asked by McNulty whether the unmarked city-owned vehicles would be appropriate, Supt. Rendall Nesset, officer in charge of Richmond RCMP said the cars "will be equipped to the satisfaction" of police.

Last year city council's community safety committee ordered staff to research the prospect of an independent Richmond police force, which committee chair Coun. Derek Dang said at the time would offer better service, governance and accountability.

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