The future of Fraser Valley policing could change
New recommendations on changes to the Police Act could see Fraser Valley RCMP detachments replaced with a provincial model.
The creation of a new provincial police service in British Columbia could give some Fraser Valley politicians more of a say in how their communities are policed.
Last week, an all-party committee tasked with reviewing policing in British Columbia suggested the province overhaul its Police Act and create a new provincial police service to replace the RCMP.
Currently, the Fraser Valley only has one municipal police department: the Abbotsford Police Department, which is governed by a local police board. The rest of the valley is policed by RCMP detachments, including the Langley RCMP, Mission RCMP, and the Upper Fraser Valley RCMP, which is responsible for policing between Chilliwack and Boston Bar.
The special committee unanimously recommended that the province switch to a provincial police service with more governance at the municipal level—similar in many ways to the municipal police force structure. The changes, if implemented, would still allow municipalities to choose whether to have their own municipal detachment or contract the provincial service; however, all would be governed by local police boards (which is not the case for the RCMP). The report was applauded by the BC Urban Mayor’s Caucus, of which Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun is a part.
It wouldn’t be the first time BC had a provincial police force. Starting in 1858, the BC Provincial Police (B.P.P.) was responsible for crime reduction in the province. When it was dissolved in favour of the RCMP in August 1950, the service had 123 detachments with more than 520 officers across the province. The suggestion to bring back the provincial police for has been regularly renewed since the 1950s, though not at the level of an all-party committee nor at a time with as much focus on policing oversight.
The new report also suggested there could also be changes with police boards, like the one that oversees the Abbotsford Police. The task force also recommended that mayors not chair local police boards, due to political or financial conflicts of interest. Abbotsford’s police board is historically chaired by its mayor.
Other recommendations suggest amalgamating police services for neighbouring communities to address the “fragmented service delivery.” The report suggested communities in southern Vancouver Island, the Okanagan, and the Lower Mainland could benefit from joining into regional police forces, given that crime doesn’t always follow municipal borders. The Upper Fraser Valley RCMP is an existing example of this kind of regionalization, although there have been challenges in the past. Agassiz and Hope have shared personnel, but locals have raised questions about whether resources are fairly divided. Changes to BC’s policing model could also spur conversations about creating a joint force between Abbotsford and Mission, which already share transit, water, and sewer systems.
The committee said its recommendations aim to address a “lack of consistency” that currently exists in policing across the province. By moving to a provincial model, the report argued, police departments would be better able to improve local accountability, responsiveness, and decision-making.
The report also suggested a number of changes to address systemic racism in the Police Act, particularly towards Indigenous people and communities. Some of those recommendations include allowing First Nations to have direct input into their policing structure and governance. That could include the creation of more Indigenous-led police departments, which could provide contracted policing to neighbouring communities as well.
The committee also recommended expanding culturally appropriate restorative justice programs and better educating police officers on the history, culture, and socioeconomic context of the community where officers will be working.
In total, 11 recommendations are included in the committee’s full report. The provincial government will now begin its own review and consultation about the report’s recommendations. There is no set timeline on when the Legislative Assembly would decide what to do with the Police Act based on these recommendations.
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