Richmond edged closer this week to ditching the Mounties and setting up its own police force, while sliding away from a joint deal with the VPD.
In a move instigated by a long-term disdain for the RCMP’s “lack of accountability,” city council’s community safety committee asked staff Wednesday to drill down the numbers on setting up an independent police department.
The option — one of five presented to councillors by staff — included outsourcing specialized services to other policing agencies, such as the RCMP’s homicide investigation team.
Although commending the local RCMP detachment for the service it provides, Mayor Malcolm Brodie successfully tabled a motion asking staff to closer examine the finances for the aforementioned option; in particular the pricey transition costs estimated between $20 million and $36 million.
Staff were also asked to come back with an analysis and comment on an RCMP report — which wasn’t delivered to the city until last Friday — which apparently justifies why the Mounties should remain in Richmond.
Staff will also consider in greater depth whether there is any actual prospect of a regional police force being supported and spearheaded by the province.
Finally, the committee want staff to invite the mayor of Esquimalt to come talk to council about that city’s reportedly negative experience of breaking away from the Mounties and setting up, back in 2002, a joint police force with Victoria — a deal which it is now wants out of, but is stuck with.
The option of setting up a joint force with Vancouver is still on the table — along with sticking with the RCMP, a totally independent and self-sufficient force or a sub-regional force.
Committee members, however, seemed to favour Richmond having its own police department (with external specialized services), a move estimated on the side of caution by staff as costing $1.6 million to $3.2 million more a year to run that paying for the RCMP.
But it was the transition costs — anywhere between $20 million and $36 million — that furrowed the brows of some on council.
“I think the transition costs are absolutely central to the discussion today,” said Mayor Brodie.
“I believe we’re happy with the operations and service from (the local detachment), but we’ve been forced into a 20-year contract with important details not being solved.
“The report highlights the fact we have a pretty good situation right now, but in terms of accountability and control, what can expect from other models?”
While Coun. Derek Dang described the transition costs as “exorbitant,” pointing to a similar report in 2009, which estimated lower transition costs for an entire province.
“We were putting in maximum amounts, but we can drill down the figures,” said the city’s community safety manager Phyllis Carlyle.
“We would need to spend longer with other police agencies to talk in more details about costs.
“We certainly don’t see those figures going up.”
Dang said the figures being quoted are deliberately “scary” and urged staff to come back with a more detailed analysis of where the numbers come from.
“We’ve been beating ourselves over the head with this for a long time now,” added Dang.
“Let’s see what the best model is for Richmond, I really want this investigated.
“I’m happy to listen to what the mayor of Esquimalt has to say, but I will take that with a grain of salt; maybe it was personalities, maybe it was a bad deal?”
Coun. Ken Johnston, meanwhile, said he was “alarmed” by some of the negativity contained in the staff report about setting up a Richmond police department and took a shot at the RCMP’s regional bosses for taking so long to submit a report.
“We get this (RCMP report) on Friday and there’s about a month’s worth of staff time analyzing it here,” said Johnston.
“There’s a tidbit right there of their accountability. There’s always a list of negatives, what about the positives for a change?
“We’re grumbling about transition costs, but maybe there’s a solution in there; this is a huge issue and we need to keep an open mind.”
Coun. Bill McNulty said the city is now at a “critical crossroads” and should really explore the option of having its own police force.
Establishing an independent police force with external specialized services was estimated in the report at between $41.5 and $43.1 million annually, or $1.6 to $3.2 million more than the RCMP now.
The report to committee was sparked by the city's disappointment at having little or no say in the running of the detachment it spends millions on each year. Contained in the report is an extensive costing analysis of the Vancouver police department delivering services in Richmond, a document requested by Richmond.
If the city does decide to break away from the Mounties, the city would need the co-operation of the province and would need to give the RCMP two years' notice of termination.
Recent RCMP issues — such as paying more than other cities for integrated policing costs, a 5.25-per-cent wage hike and who's to pay for the new $1.2 billion RCMP E division headquarters in Surrey — have further irked Richmond city council in the lack of control it has over policing.