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Esquimalt faces battle over access to police documents

Aug 14 2012
A Victoria police car in front of Esquimalt Municipal Hall. Esquimalt council would have preferred an RCMP presence. 

A Victoria police car in front of Esquimalt Municipal Hall. Esquimalt council would have preferred an RCMP presence.

Photograph by: Bruce Stotesbury , timescolonist.com

A Victoria police officer is asking the B.C. privacy commissioner to review whether the Township of Esquimalt is being overly secretive in refusing to release documents around its policing controversy.

The township turned down a freedom of information request, filed by Const.

David Bratzer, asking to see the RCMP's proposal to police the community.

Esquimalt favoured the Mounties' proposal over that of the Victoria police, because the move would have saved $2 million and supported a 35-member, standalone detachment.

Justice Minister Shirley Bond overruled Esquimalt's preference and appointed a mediator to help the two parties resolve their longstanding differences. However, the municipality is seeking legal advice on how to fight the decision.

Bratzer said the public has a right to see what's in the RCMP's proposal that made it the favoured option.

He's asking the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner to review the denial of his request.

"I feel this is an appropriate time to ask ourselves, 'Was this a transparent process?' " said Bratzer, who stressed he is doing this in his off-duty time, not on behalf of the Victoria police. "And the answer, in my view, is no."

The Times Colonist is also appealing a decision by Esquimalt denying access to the Victoria police and RCMP proposals, as well as to the final report by Esquimalt's police and lawenforcement advisory panel.

Esquimalt councillors David Hodgins and Tim Morrison have long advocated for those documents to be made public.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said the RCMP and Victoria police were guaranteed confidentiality as part of the request-forproposals process and it's up to them to release the documents.

The Victoria police refused to release their policing proposal in response to a Freedom of Information request by the Times Colonist. The department said releasing the proposal, which details deployment plans and service levels, could harm the negotiations between department and the township.

Bratzer's queries forced the release of additional documents revealing several concerns and questions from both the RCMP and Victoria police about the state of Esquimalt's 32yearold public-safety building, which lacks police cells.

Currently, the Victoria police's west division shares the cramped space with Esquimalt Fire, and there has been speculation a new building would have to be constructed to house an RCMP detachment.

Bratzer said the public should have been informed that choosing a new police service provider could result in the construction of a multimillion dollar building.

He is also requesting the complete minutes and detailed budget for the police advisory panel.

Esquimalt council decided Monday night that it will request a meeting with Premier Christy Clark at the next Union of British Columbia Municipalities summit to talk about their concerns around policing issues.

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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