A long queue of calls filled the Saanich dispatcher’s screen. With Saanich police officers already deployed on other matters, she knew these ones would wait too long.
The dispatcher decided to invoke an informal longstanding procedure calling in Oak Bay Police for assistance, and they responded, crossing over the boundary to lend a hand.
While not a regular occurrence, the mutual cooperation of the Saanich Police, Oak Bay Police and the Victoria Police Department is not unusual.
“It’s not a part of a formal agreement that it happens,” said Deputy Chief Kent Thom of the Oak Bay Police. “We have just informally agreed that we would cooperate to make it happen when it’s required.”
The process for that cooperative policing to be initiated initially seems a bit cumbersome, but according to Thom, it works remarkably well.
“We share a dispatcher with Saanich,” explained Thom. “If they see that a situation has developed where they have calls waiting on the screen that can’t be addressed by one of our forces, and there are free personnel available across the boundary, that dispatcher will make a call to the appropriate duty watch commander and ask for clearance to direct those calls to our people.”
Those redeployments to calls outside municipal boundaries work both ways. “Sometimes it’s us who needs the help,” said Thom.
The situation with Victoria police is slightly different.
“We don’t share dispatch with them,” said Thom. “So their dispatcher will either call our dispatcher or directly contact the appropriate duty watch commander. After that the process is the same.”
In some cases it’s the officers themselves who take the initiative.
“Most of our officers will take an additional radio with them so that they can hear the calls happening across the boundaries in the adjacent municipalities. That way they can be aware of a potential perpetrator crossing into Oak Bay after committing an offence in Saanich, for example.”
The officers can also be aware that a call for service in Saanich can’t be addressed immediately. If they are close by and free to do so, they will call for clearance to take the call, said Thom.
Other police services in the three communities are designed for mutual cooperation. Under the Memorandum of Understanding between Saanich and Oak Bay officers cooperate and work together for major case investigation, Internet technology services, dog handlers, emergency response, the integrated road safety unit, and other services that transcend the municipal boundaries of the respective forces. In some cases, members of all or some of the other Greater Victoria municipalities are party to agreements that allows them to contribute to these cooperative enforcement units.
Information on the Oak Bay Police Department services can be found at Oakbaypolice.org.