No need for regional force, says Langley RCMP superintendent
There is no need for a regional police force in the Lower Mainland because one already exists, in the form of the integrated police units operated by RCMP and municipal police forces.
That was the message of Supt. Derek Cooke, the officer in charge of the Langley RCMP detachment and his boss, assistant RCMP commissioner Norm Lipinski, who commands Metro Vancouver’s various Mountie detachments.
Township councillors invited the RCMP to appear before council on Monday, March 4 to comment on the call for a regional police force in Metro Vancouver that was made by Missing Women Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal in December of last year.
In a 1,450-page, four-volume report titled Forsaken, Oppal called on the province to create a Greater Vancouver police force after concluding a fractured, badly co-ordinated police response let serial killer Robert Pickton continue operating for years after he should have been caught.
Cooke opened his presentation to council by asking councillors who supported the Oppal recommendation to raise their hands.
No one did.
Then Cooke went on to argue that, for all intents and purposes, there already exists a regional force, consisting of integrated teams of RCMP and municipal police officers who investigate murders, carry out crash reconstructions and forensic investigations, share police dog teams and operate a joint Emergency Response Team (ERT) that tackles especially hazardous situations.
“I kind of wonder why we’re having this discussion [about a regional force],” Cooke said.
“We already have one.”
Cooke said information sharing among the different RCMP detachments and police departments has substantially improved post-Pickton, with new technology that supplies near-instant alerts about criminal activity.
He compared the Lower Mainland’s co-operative policing approach to other regional police forces in Ottawa, Los Angeles and New York City, where large urban areas are divided into individual precincts that look after local law enforcement, while regional forces pursue cross-boundary crime.
He said the different municipalities in the Lower Mainland are the equivalent of those precincts.
The detachment head also took a few minutes to challenge critics who claim the RCMP are not well-suited for community policing because they take their orders from headquarters in Ottawa.
“Ottawa has virtually nothing to do with day-to-day policing operations in Langley,” Cooke said.
“My accountability is to the community.”
Cooke said the RCMP offer certain advantages in cost and economies of scale.
Ottawa covers a percentage of policing costs for municipalities, Cooke noted, and the RCMP as a large police force can operate services like the Air One helicopters that benefit all police.
The only municipal police department that doesn’t participate in the integrated teams with the RCMP is Vancouver, Cooke said.
He was quick to add that the Mounties and VPD have a good working relationship.
The VPD has been lobbying to run a regional police force, something Assistant Commissioner Lipinski said would offer no advantage over the current setup and would amount to recreating existing services.
It comes down to cost and effectiveness, Lipinski said.
“What are you going to gain and at what cost?”
In response to questioning from council, Lipinski said the RCMP have been taking a low-key approach to the regional police debate, limited to presenting their side when specifically requested.
“We would like to see the facts on the table,” Lipinski said.
“We tend to shy away from getting into the weeds. We’re asked, we appear.
“We give the facts for your consideration.”
Mayor Jack Froese, a former VPD officer, agreed that communication between municipal police and the RCMP has improved since he retired from the department.
“It’s a thousand-fold better,” Froese said.
Froese went on to say he believes Langley is getting “good value for service” from the RCMP and dismissed the Oppal call for regional policing as “politically driven.”
— with files from Jeff Nagel