West Vancouver Police Department chief constable Peter Lepine suggests there’s something else behind some of the talk about creating a regional police force for the Lower Mainland. Lepine, a former Mountie, says it’s really “more of a discussion around RCMP bashing”.
He spoke to the Straight by phone on January 18, a few days before Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson and Vancouver Police Department chief constable Jim Chu endorsed the idea of a unified police service for the region. Lepine was commenting on a statement by SFU criminology director Rob Gordon made in a Straight article that Lepine would likely oppose a move to create a single police force for the North Shore, which includes the District of West Vancouver, the City of North Vancouver, and the District of North Vancouver.
Lepine asserted that there’s an existing model for a Metro Vancouver–wide police service: the RCMP’s Lower Mainland District Regional Police Service. The service doesn’t cover six municipalities that have their own local police forces: Abbotsford, Delta, New Westminster, Port Moody, Vancouver, and West Vancouver.
“The problem is that if you were to ask Mr. Gordon or anybody else for that matter and say, well, if that regional police service was the RCMP, would they be okay with that?” Lepine said. “And my sense of it is that Mr. Gordon would not be okay with that.”
According to Lepine, that’s “because they have a bias against the RCMP”.
“I would like to see somebody pose that question to him [Gordon],” Lepine said. “If through discussions at the various government levels, if there was a decision to go to a Metro Vancouver police service and if that Metro Vancouver police service was the RCMP, would you be satisfied where we needed to go with it?
He continued, “Because it seems to me that this is not a discussion about regional policing. This is more of a discussion around RCMP bashing. That’s my sense of it.”
The Straight put Lepine’s question to Gordon, who, before becoming an SFU academic, worked as a police officer.
“They would support regional policing for the whole of Metro Vancouver if it was run by the RCMP,” Gordon said by phone, describing how he believes the RCMP views a unified police service. “So what’s that all about? I mean they’re opposed to it if they didn’t [run it], but they will support it if it is. It is an echo of what Lepine is saying. It really is about power and control and the arrogance of the RCMP in assuming that there is no other worthy police service in Canada, and especially not in British Columbia. Only they can do the job and, of course, that’s piffle.”