Municipal councillors want RCMP oversight

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      With a few exceptions, not too many municipal politicians dare speak critically about the RCMP’s lucrative policing contract in B.C.

      An agreement in principle to renew the deal for another 20 years is expected to be reached this fall, and two more Lower Mainland councillors are asking whether or not the province is getting a good package.

      Although District of North Vancouver councillor Doug MacKay-Dunn and Richmond councillor Greg Halsey-Brandt have previously raised questions about the costs and the quality of RCMP service, the City of North Vancouver’s Rod Clark and Burnaby’s Nick Volkow are zeroing in on the lack of civilian control over the force.

      “I would say that the public is demanding civilian accountability and oversight over the RCMP,” Clark told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “Nobody’s happy with the police investigating themselves. There has to be some sort of complaint mechanism, which, again, is civilian oversight.”

      Unlike independent local police forces, RCMP detachments don’t answer to municipal boards. As well, they are not subject to the jurisdiction of the provincial Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.

      “If we don’t have that, I mean, why would a party sign to a contract unless they were 100-percent happy?” Clark asked.

      A total of 58 cities and towns in B.C. with populations of at least 5,000 are policed by the RCMP through separate agreements with the national force. Except for jurisdictions that have their own independent police forces, like Vancouver, the rest of the province is also patrolled by the Mounties under contract with the province.

      Burnaby’s Volkow isn’t pleased that his city doesn’t really have control over its RCMP detachment.

      “I’m starting to lean towards the view that a municipal force is better because there’s a better opportunity for oversight municipally than there is with the RCMP,” Volkow told the Straight in a phone interview. “There’s a local police board, and the other thing is that the local [RCMP] detachments, they answer to Ottawa before they answer to the city that they’re policing.”

      Volkow also noted that costs are another concern, a matter that is reflected in proposed resolutions for this year’s annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, to be held in Whistler from September 27 to October 1.

      One proposal calls for greater financial, equipment, and personnel resources for the RCMP in small rural recreational areas during peak tourism seasons. Another suggests that the RCMP should bear all the costs of defending its members facing allegations of improper conduct. A third resolution seeks to protect municipal governments from unexpected costs as a result of major criminal investigations involving RCMP assets drawn from outside their local jurisdictions.

      In 2007, according to a UBCM document, municipalities with populations of more than 15,000 spent about $370 million for RCMP policing services. Jurisdictions with 5,000 to 15,000 residents paid out around $47 million. For areas with fewer than 5,000 people, the provincial government spent more than $276 million in that same year.

      The RCMP contract in B.C. expires in 2012. According to SFU criminologist Robert Gordon, the inquiry into the bungled police investigation of convicted serial killer Robert Pickton presents the provincial government with a chance to suspend the contract-renewal negotiations. As the lead investigating agency for cases involving missing women, the RCMP was largely blamed in a report by the Vancouver Police Department in August this year for the failure to stop Pickton sooner.

      “A sensible”¦cabinet will be saying: ”˜We don’t know what’s coming out of Pickton, we don’t know where this is going to go, we don’t want to be jammed in the embarrassing situation of having a contract with the police service that’s shown to have so many problems and so many failures as exemplified by the Pickton incident,’” Gordon told the Straight in a phone interview.

      But Gordon himself doesn’t expect this to happen. “That assumes that there is rational governance taking place,” he said. “I have no faith that that is what is going on at this point.”

      Speaking on the floor of the B.C. legislature on June 3 this year, Solicitor General Mike de Jong declared that the government wants to “continue the relationship” and arrive at a “long-term agreement” with the RCMP.



      Greg Klein

      Sep 23, 2010 at 5:05am

      Speaking about oversight and accountability for the RCMP, North Van city councillor Rod Clark laments that the Mounties don’t come under the jurisdiction of B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner’

      But if they did, what would change?

      The OPCC supposedly oversees B.C.’s municipal cops. It’s headed by Stan Lowe. In his last job as a Crown attorney, Lowe stated that the five Taser shocks and other treatment that four RCMP officers inflicted on Robert Dziekanski were “reasonable and necessary.” Just one week later Lowe was appointed police complaint commissioner.

      Lowe’s staff consist almost entirely of ex-cops. For example, deputy police complaint commissioner Bruce M. Brown was an RCMP officer for 32 years. OPCC analyst Rollie Woods used to head Vancouver Police Professional Standards, which conducts cop-on-cop investigations into complaints against their own colleagues.

      How do these guys carry out their responsibilities? Let’s look at the case in which a Vancouver police officer shoved a disabled woman to the ground.

      In statements made six weeks after the assault, Vancouver police and the OPCC said they learned about it soon afterwards. But they kept quiet for six weeks. They even allowed the cop to remain on active duty in the Main-and-Hastings neighbourhood where he assaulted the woman. It wasn’t until over six weeks later, after the B.C. Civil Liberties Association took up the case and sent media a video of the assault, that Vancouver police and the OPCC issued public statements, the offending officer was transferred and an investigation was ordered.

      The OPCC could fix the RCMP’s problems? I think a lot of Mounties would like you to believe that.

      And if that’s not bad enough, the BC Liberals are talking about putting Thomas Braidwood’s recommended Independent Investigation Office under OPCC jurisdiction.

      ed peters

      Sep 23, 2010 at 12:47pm

      The RCMP has the best trained police officers in North America.
      You may very much regret what you wish for. A lot of this criticism is a bunch of nonsense led by a group that has a vested interest in acquiring a provincial police force.

      glen p robbins

      Sep 25, 2010 at 10:03pm

      The evidence is clear that there is not sufficient accountability at the level of provincial, or municipal government.

      There isn't sufficient accountability with the police force, the lawyers/courts, teachers, real estate agents - or for that matter - banks and on and on.

      Anyone who has done the research knows this is true - those who haven't rely on their personal bias.

      Gordon Campbell has guaranteed that proponents of public oversight and more direct democracy will be successful, and more foolish politicians like Carole James (of late) will rely on the trust me -- I am different.

      I know the public - they laugh at the established institutions in this province------laugh.

      Steve Jones

      Feb 11, 2011 at 9:55pm

      The way I see it you have two distinct and separate issues here, the Culture of the RCMP and their operational abilities. The Culture is still one where a large portion of the membership actually believe they are the best law enforcement unit in the country. I think in BC alone, over the last year or 2, we can see they are not the best trained as Ed Peters stated.
      This is an old boys club mentality that has been continually passed down.

      Most of their improvements in training, equipment and enforcement have come off the backs of municipal agencies. The fact of the matter is many municipal agencies involved in joint operations will tell you that the only thing the RCMP brings to the operation is cash. Many of the investigators have little to no training or experience to assist the file. They can not make a command decision, if they are the lead, without Ottawa's blessing which takes forever.

      Because they are a Federal organization they opt out of provincial or municipal training standards and oversight. It concerns me as a taxpayer that there is a tremendous amount of duplication with so many police services in both the the greater Vancouver and Victoria area. I keep hearing about the lack of interoperability and wonder why nothing is been done to enhance unity.

      Where is the Solicitor General. The former Mike De Jong said he would not get involved in repairing the fractured policing model. I can't understand why, when the province sets the bulk of policing standards and uses a large portion of provincial taxpayer money to established them. Unbelievable but understandable as he does not want to tarnish his resume.

      Just wanted to say there are a ton of good police officers out there, wearing many different uniforms, but it could be a lot better if they were in one.