Province must speed up police reform, say BC municipal leaders

Local politicians across British Columbia on Monday urged the provincial government to begin reforming policing after consultations that began more than two years ago but have yet to result in any concrete action.

“I believe the provincial government has let us down,” Kamloops County said. Mike O’Reilly at an event at the Union of BC Municipalities convention in Whistler focused on provincial plans to reform policing and public safety across the province.

O’Reilly said a lack of movement on police reform (first announced in July 2020) or how the province deals with repeat offenders (first announced in May) has contributed to a culture growing unrest and vigilance in the communities.

“We can’t keep up with this if we’re going at this pace,” he said.

“Something has to happen fast. We can’t keep waiting… Implement things, or at least get things done, so people at least feel like they’re being heard.”

Policing accounts for the largest portion of any municipality’s budget (usually between 15 and 30 percent of overall spending), and municipalities have often lamented their inability to exercise greater oversight.

“Our communities are suffering”

O’Reilly’s comments were among the most impassioned for provincial officials in a session where the government outlined work done to date and next steps.

But neither the NDP MPs on the panel nor Wayne Rideout, the province’s director of policing, were able to give a timeline on when the changes would come.

“These recommendations don’t surprise or shock us…we’re working on them and making sure the government knows the implications,” Rideout said.

He spoke of general support for many of the recommendations made by a cross-party committee, including Indigenous communities having direct input into their policing, and the government creating and appropriately funding a continuum of responses to mental health issues. and drug addiction.

But wanting more detail on what would be prioritized – and whether changes could come quickly – was a repeated theme from delegates.

“Some of the proposed revisions are great, but they’re long-term,” Courtenay Coun said. Claire Moglove, who kept expanding auxiliary police programs and provided more funding to mental health providers asked to partner with the police, would pay immediate dividends.

“In the short term, our communities are hurting, and I think the government has heard us on that.”

BC Police Services Director Wayne Rideout, left, and BC RCMP Commander Dwayne McDonald, right, answer questions from mayors and councilors of the Union of Municipalities of the British Columbia by 2022. (Justin McElroy/CBC News)

Will the provincial force take place?

But there are serious questions about the committee’s biggest recommendation — replacing the RCMP with a provincial police force.

David Eby, who is the favorite to become prime minister this fall, did not approve of the idea, and New Democrat MP Doug Routley, chairman of the police reform committee, admitted “it is not not sure about that aspect of it,” but said such a transition would be a decade-long effort.

Also, Coquitlam County. Craig Hodge, chair of the UBCM Community Safety Committee, said the committee did not approve of the change, saying it would be more productive to work with the RCMP to bring about reforms under the current model.

“There’s always the concern of losing range and whether you can deliver higher levels of service,” Hodge said.

“How do you meet community expectations in each community if you deal with a regional police force?”

At the same time, he said there are more pressing short-term issues around appropriate funding for mental health issues that the province needs to address.

“It ties up the police, but…it needs to be addressed from a health perspective,” he said.

“Our immediate first thing we need to do is deal with the opioid and mental health crisis, get the proper resources out there…let’s get those resources properly, and that’s going to free up some officers to deal with d ‘other things happening in our community.

Melissa C. Keyes