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B.C. report revives regional policing

B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond - Black Press
B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond
— image credit: Black Press

VICTORIA – Attorney General Shirley Bond released a report and tabled legislation Tuesday that promises to take another look at regional police forces in urban areas.

The report refers to former judge and attorney general Wally Oppal's findings in the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry that pointed to fragmented policing and poor coordination between different Metro Vancouver police forces. It is the second of two "white papers" commissioned by the B.C. government in an effort to make the justice system more responsive to citizens.

"I think what we've recognized is that for far too long there has been talk about regionalization of policing and very little homework, very little detail, very little analysis of the pros and cons of that model," Bond told reporters Tuesday.

"What I've decided to do is to have the conversation that probably should have taken place long ago.

"From my perspective we need to look at whether more integration is the answer, or whether indeed it is time to contemplate a regional police force. I will not do that unilaterally. There are very strongly held views. But we need to have a meaningful discussion about that, and the white paper and the policing plan commits to having that kind of dialogue."

The latest white paper calls on the government to develop funding models that would share the cost of regional police services, whether they are dedicated units for gang violence or domestic violence, or fully amalgamated policing.

Bond isn't sure if the Justice Reform and Transparency Act will be passed in the current legislature session, which is expected to adjourn March 14 to make way for the May 14 provincial election. She said she is prepared to campaign on what she calls an "aggressive" justice reform agenda.

Bond said public opinion is split on the merits of individual police forces, and some municipal politicians are adamant they don't want to give up their local police force. A domestic violence unit for Greater Victoria police forces was established but has since had its staffing reduced.

"We hear anecdotal information about regional policing all the time," Bond said.

"No one has actually investigated the costs, the benefits."

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