Amendments to the Police Act don’t impact the Westshore
Communities of more than 5,000 residents in BC are responsible for their own police services
The provincial government introduced amendments to the Police Act (Bill 36) that make communities of more than 5,000 residents wholly responsible for their own police services. The amendment doesn’t mean they have to provide policing services on their own, but it does mean they either have to enter into a Municipal Police Unit Agreement (MPUA) with the RCMP or into an agreement—as Esquimalt and Victoria did in the past—to share the fiscal burden of having a shared municipal police force.
Saanich, Central Saanich, Oak Bay and Victoria (Esquimalt) are policed by four separate municipal police departments. Whereas, municipalities in the Westshore rely on a single RCMP detachment.
West Shore RCMP detachment
To enjoy the benefits of police services provided by a combined RCMP detachment like the one in the Westshore, each participating municipality must sign an agreement and be financially responsible for their portion of the cost of officers, offices, garages, and jail facilities. Signing the agreement can be costly. The District of Sooke currently dedicates 20% of its operating budget to policing. But for smaller communities like Metchosin, Colwood and View Royal legislators have agreed that sharing the burden is worth it, at least for now.
Colwood and View Royal councils both voted, earlier this year, to fund plans for a new West Shore RCMP detachment building estimated to cost $82.4M. The West Shore RCMP detachment located in Langford provides policing service to the City of Langford, City of Colwood, Town of View Royal, District of Metchosin, District of Highlands, Songhees First Nation and Esquimalt First Nation.
Based on property assessment data, Langford would be on the hook for the lion’s share of $49.6M, while Colwood and View Royal would contribute $20.1M and $12.8M respectively.
At the time of the announcement of amendments to the Police Act, the province was providing police services to 80 municipalities in BC with fewer than 5,000 residents. Under the BC Police Act, the province will continue to provide police services to rural and unincorporated communities with a population less than 5,000. Those communities pay a Police Tax to help cover provincial policing costs and must now apply directly to the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General if they wish to transition out of those agreements to a different form of policing.
Under the amendment, municipalities who want to transition to autonomous police services have to provide the ministry with a detailed plan. Section 3.1 (1) of the amended act reads “A municipality must, in either of the following circumstances, request approval of the minister respecting the means under section 3 (2) by which the municipality proposes to provide policing and law enforcement.”
The province can then either approve the proposed plan or reject the proposed plan, particularly if a municipality’s proposed plan would “adversely affect the ability of the minister or municipality to fulfill their respective duties under sections 2 and 15 (1).”
If down the road, a rapidly growing Colwood does decide to de-integrate from the West Shore RCMP detachment and create their own autonomous police services, the new amendments outlines precisely how it must go about making the transition.
For Westshore municipalities, the announcement does not have any prescient present repercussions but as its communities grow, they may have to look to these amendments if, in future, they decide to take policing into their own hands.