The City of Richmond would abandon the RCMP in favour of a provincial or municipal police force — but only as a last resort.
Mayor Malcolm Brodie made the assertions to the News this week after a fellow civic, leader Langley City’s Peter Fassbender, declared that Lower Mainland municipalities are still not afraid to consider severing ties with the RCMP to set up a regional force.
Fassbender, the Union of B.C. Municipalities' observer in the contract talks, was reacting after Alberta and Saskatchewan broke off from the group and signed a new 20-year RCMP deal that contains none of the cost-control measures that B.C. cities are demanding.
The current contract expires in March and Brodie said B.C. cities, including Richmond, will be forced to seriously consider the switch if their hand is forced by either the provincial or federal governments, two of the parties involved in the protracted talks.
“If no appropriate agreement is negotiated with the provincial and federal governments, then our only remedy is to go out and set up a provincial police force,” Brodie said.
“I don’t think it’s something we’d want to undertake, unless as a last resort.”
The mayor said his city is “very concerned” with a number of the terms in the potential agreement, such as the length of the deal (20 years) and the cost involved.
But he does believe that the threat of Richmond and other B.C. cities pulling out of the RCMP policing model is genuine.
“It’s always a possibility, although it’s not something we’d particularly choose to do or want to do,” he said.
“But we have to be getting value for our dollar from the RCMP.”
Brodie insists the city is getting value for money from the RCMP at the moment, but only because of the officer at the helm.
“So much depends on the officer in charge,” Brodie said.
“For the last decade or so, we’ve had officers in charge who are responsive to council and the city and work within our guidelines.
“The longevity of postings to an individual detachment is also a concern, as we want someone who is responsive to the community’s needs.”
If it does come to the crunch, however, and Fassbender, Brodie et al pull the plug on the RCMP, Richmond’s mayor would prefer a municipal force, as opposed to a regional outfit.
“We can have more community responsiveness with a municipal than provincial, so I’d much rather go down the municipal route,” he added.
The Prairie provinces agreed this week to keeping the existing cost-sharing policing formula, which makes cities with more than 15,000 people pay 90 per cent of RCMP costs, while smaller cities pay 70 per cent. The federal government picks up the tab for the rest.
Fassbender, who also co-chairs a committee of Lower Mainland mayors whose cities are served by the RCMP, was adamant that the current deal on the table is unacceptable and won’t be signed.
Some cities in B.C. spend a quarter of their budgets on policing and claim the RCMP, with its high benefits and equipment costs, is becoming unaffordable.
There are 11 RCMP detachments in the Lower Mainland, including Richmond, Burnaby, North Vancouver and Surrey.
Richmond city council led the way in June by demanding more control over the provincial RCMP contract.
The city had been asked by the UBCM (Union of British Columbia Municipalities) to provide input before the forming of a new provincial/municipal RCMP contract committee.
The city's formal demands included no changes be made to policing practices or governance that impact future municipal costs unless the city approves the change and that the committee employ a weighted voting system based on the size of the RCMP detachment and meet at least four times a year.