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Esquimalt residents and councillors joust over policing

Jul 10 2012

Esquimalt councillors and some residents, Monday evening, railed against the province’s decision to force the Victoria police on the community.

But other residents used the weekly council meeting to implore the municipality to move on and make nice with the police department.

It was the first chance members of the public and councillors have had to publicly discuss an independent mediator’s report, released in late June, outlining 43 steps that could improve the relationship between Esquimalt and Victoria police.

Several residents questioned council’s decision to pick a legal fight over Justice Minister Shirley Bond’s power to dictate municipal police services, saying this is a waste of money.

“Join the Victoria police force and let’s get back to governing Esquimalt,” said Esquimalt resident Guy Price.

Muriel Dunn slammed the “ongoing secrecy” employed by Esquimalt council and the police and law enforcement advisory panel in not releasing the report recommending a switch to the RCMP.

Resident Kris Starkey criticized Esquimalt council for not making public their endorsement of the RCMP until after the November municipal election.

Starkey said the Victoria Police Department provides the type of community policing Esquimalt is asking for, but acknowledged it comes at a hefty price tag.

“Sometimes, cheapest isn’t best,” he said, noting Mounties are often transferred out of the community every few years instead of setting down roots.

Former Esquimalt mayor Darwin Robinson said Esquimalt pays more than $2 million more than Oak Bay for policing, and wants to see a style similar to Oak Bay Police with a standalone police department that contracts out more specialized services. “It’s time for a divorce,” from Victoria police, he said, lamenting the hasty “shot gun wedding” in 2003, when the Esquimalt police became part of the Victoria force.

Esquimalt council criticized the mediator’s report and refused to accept it, instead passing a motion to “receive it as information” and debate it further at a future meeting in mid-August.

Councillor Meagan Brame said the report was derogatory to Esquimalt, pointing to a portion which said the higher proportion of serious crime is caused by the naval base and the existence of group homes and a methadone clinic.

“Why did we go through this process when all they wanted us to do is start where we were three years ago?” Brame said.

Councillor Lynda Hundleby said she’s tired of the province”s “paternalistic and parochial attitude toward Esquimalt.”

Councillor David Schinbein said he’s frustrated that Esquimalt is the only municipality shouldering the burden of paying to police the downtown core.

Esquimalt has the second highest policing costs per capita in the region.

“Victoria and Esquimalt do not have a common vision of policing,” Mayor Barb Desjardins said. “How do you get one police force to deal with two separate community visions?”

kderosa@timescolonist.com


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