Police boards eye regional projects

Working group aims to shift toward integration for police across the south Island

Oak Bay Police Board member Sandra Waddington and Deputy Police Chief Kent Thom will represent the community on a new working group to investigate integrated policing units.

“We’re reaching out to all of the police agencies and municipalities in order to develop a framework to examine how integrated units can be enhanced to ensure greater public safety,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen.

Representatives from the Central Saanich, Oak Bay, Saanich and Victoria and Esquimalt police boards met last week to talk about common issues that affect all police boards in the Capital Region.

Discussion focused on integrated policing. Topics included how integrated police units could be improved to enhance public safety and the role of oversight for such units.

“It’s a fairly major step. It was full agreement amongst all four municipal police forces,” Jensen said. “It’ll be their responsibility to review the next steps, including how to work together with the RCMP.”

Oak Bay already works on integration of sorts, with a Saanich Police contract that provides as-needed services such as serious crime detectives and forensic identification.

In recent years, regional units have fallen apart – such as the Regional Crime Unit that folded after Saanich withdrew last year, following the departure of other municipalities the year before – or have been altered without public input, Jensen said, something they’d like to avoid.

“What we want to try to do is look at how, going forward, we can properly look at the required integrated units and how best to create a memorandum of understanding for entry and exit, funding and for civilian oversight,” he said. “We have experience, what we’re looking at is the long-term view of these integrated units.”

The meeting follows a successful inaugural gathering of the police boards, which includes mayors of the five communities, on June 12.

With an agreement on a terms of reference, the working group will move forward and seek a partnership with RCMP jurisdictions in the region which include Sooke, Sidney/North Saanich and West Shore.