Saanich council votes in favour of regional police force

Saanich council votes in favour of regional police force
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WATCH:  The capital region not only has 13 municipalities, it also has six separate police departments. On Monday night, Saanich council took the first step toward establishing a regional police force. Mary Griffin reports. 

Saanich councillors have voted to contact other mayors about moving forward with a regional police force.

As chair of Saanich’s Governance Committee, Judy Brownoff called the vote on Monday and Saanich council, meeting as a committee-of-the-whole, is passed a motion that calls on the province to establish and fund a citizen’s assembly on amalgamation with other Capital Regional District municipalities who are interested.

Council has also asked Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell to invite mayors for a meeting to discuss the creation of a regional police force.

Greater Victoria’s 13 municipalities comes with a patchwork of services. In the core area, for example, Oak Bay, Victoria and Saanich each have their own police department.

Mayor Richard Atwell says the next step is to write mayors in the region with their own police forces.

“We’re going to write the mayors of the municipalities, and hear back from them, and then take another step,” Atwell said.

Victoria has its own 911 dispatch centre as does Saanich.   But in 2019, Victoria, Saanich, Central Saanich and Oak Bay will all dispatch from one location.  Atwell says it makes sense for one force to operate in the region.   “Does it make sense to put it all together at one point in time, under one department? And organize it and try to keep the costs down. And provide a high level of service. And have the same level of service wherever you go,” Atwell said.

With the largest police force on Vancouver Island, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says merging departments works.

“If Saanich is interested in taking a leadership role, in creating a regional police service, I think it’s great. Long overdue.”

While Oak Bay has its own police force, Saanich investigates major crimes in that community, such as the home invasion along Willows Beach earlier this year.

But the news of a regional force is a concern to Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen.

“It might be a great idea for a large municipality like Victoria. Because then they can draw all the resources from, from the smaller municipalities. It’s certainly not a great idea for the smaller municipalities. We will pay more for less,” Jensen said.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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