Why the incoming NDP minority government won't touch the issue of regional policing

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      Given it's extremely thin legislative majority with the support of B.C. Green MLAs, the incoming NDP government will tread carefully.

      Premier-designate John Horgan won't want to alienate certain people for fear of breathing new life into the B.C. Liberal party.

      Unfortunately, this will likely result in NDP MLAs shying away from advancing the boldest and most necessary policy prescriptions. Had the NDP won a large majority, we would probably see more dramatic moves in such important areas as forestry, municipal land-use planning, and health care. 

      Take the issue of regional policing as one example.

      For years, senior municipal police officials and academics have argued that a regional police force in Metro Vancouver would be far more effective than the current collection of RCMP detachments, city forces, and TransLink police.

      It's worth noting that each police force comes with its own bureaucracy and, quite often, media-relations department.

      The downside of the region's patchwork policing quilt was amply demonstrated by the inability to catch a serial killer for years. He lived in an RCMP jurisdiction, Port Coquitlam, and he preyed on women in Vancouver, which has its own police force.

      Lorimer Shenher was one of the VPD officers on the missing-women case. His book, That Lonely Section of Hell, showed how jurisdictional issues was one of a multitude of factors in Robert William Pickton remaining free for so long.

      Lorimer Shenher's book offered deep insights into the botched investigation of women who went missing in the Downtown Eastside.

      The creation of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has partially alleviated this when it comes to murder cases outside of Vancouver. But there's still tremendous balkanization in other areas of policing.

      There's not a uniform approach on how to deal with people with mental-health challenges. This might explain the significantly disproportionate number of people who've been shot and killed in jurisdictions policed by the RCMP.

      It's incredible that a Polish immigrant ended up dead because of the response of RCMP officers to his distress at the Vancouver International Airport in 2007.

      Meanwhile, RCMP crowd-control measures are not in sync with those in Vancouver. Different forces employ radically different tactics in their enforcement responses to the sex trade and storefront marijuana operations. And for many years, Surrey RCMP was sending one officer out to domestic disputes, whereas that would never occur with other police forces.

      There are plenty of excuses for not addressing the issue.

      * West Vancouver doesn't want to join a regional police force because its crime rate is far lower than that of the City of North Vancouver, not to mention other Lower Mainland municipalities.

      * Vancouver has squads specializing in a wide range of crimes and its officers feel that they're among the best in the country, so why would they want to answer to a regional force?

      * Cities like Burnaby and Richmond get policing on the cheap with long-term contracts with the RCMP, which provides young recruits. It would be financially disruptive to turn things upside-down.

      * UBC's Point Grey campus is growing rapidly, but no university president has ever publicly raised the issue of dumping the RCMP and seeking to be policed by the VPD. That might upset the federal government.

      * Mayors chair local municipal police boards, which keeps them in close contact with their police chief. This keeps the mayors on top of policing and enables them to crack the whip in certain areas of concern to them.

      As the population has grown on UBC's Point Grey campus, there's been no discussion about changing the force that polices the area.

      You just have to look at the officer-to-population ratio in Surrey in comparison to that of Vancouver to see how far out of whack things have become in the Lower Mainland.

      At the very least, there should be a regional police force for the North Shore or the Tri-Cities, which are distinct subregions in the Lower Mainland.

      The City of Surrey is big enough to justify having a city police force or merging with Delta police. The latter option would avoid jurisdictional issues that arise when crime crosses the 120th Street boundary. Along similar lines, Burnaby and New Westminster could easily come under one policing umbrella.

      A truly bold and brave provincial government would explore these options. But I'm betting that Horgan is not going to want to anger mayors in Burnaby, North Vancouver, and Surrey, so the status quo will prevail.

      That's the downside of minority governments. They can't afford to upset too many "important" people, even when it's in the public interest to do so.