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Saanich police officers to join regional homicide team

Dec 04 2012

Saanich Police will join the Vancouver Island Regional Homicide Unit next year and will hire additional staff to participate in the unit, Mayor Frank Leonard said in his annual address Monday.

The district will contribute three senior officers and one support person, plus resources such as vehicles, to the unit at a annual cost of about $400,000, Leonard said in an interview.

"We realized it was something we should do. We've always been concerned about the cost of joining the unit, not just for the first year but for future years."

The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit has 18 officers - six from Victoria, two from West Shore RCMP and 10 from Island RCMP detachments. Victoria police estimate the six officers and one civilian support member cost $900,000 a year, including salaries, benefits, overtime and vehicles.

Some departments, such as Central Saanich police, pay a portion of the unit's annual budget, but do not contribute officers.

Because Oak Bay has a contract with Saanich for its major crime investigations, Saanich's decision to join the homicide unit means Oak Bay is also participating.

Leonard said senior officers will be seconded to the unit but the district will hire new staff to fill the vacated positions.

"It takes a special kind of officer ... they could be gone anywhere on the Island for any length of time," Leonard said.

Saanich has long advocated that Greater Victoria's seven police departments work together through integrated units instead of merging forces.

Leonard noted his municipality participates in the regional crime and domestic violence units. "To do that and to stay in all the other regional units that we're in is a pretty strong statement of principle in favour of police integration."

Saanich's reluctance to join the homicide unit has drawn criticism in the past, particularly as the killing of 24-year-old real estate agent Lindsay Buziak in February 2008 remains unsolved.

But Leonard said the decision to join the homicide unit has nothing to do with the Buziak case and that the homicide unit does not take on old files.

"That is an open file we continue to investigate. We have had outside resources from time to time as well, so it wouldn't be fair to say that we've been on our own [on it]," Leonard said.

Saanich's decision to join the homicide unit was made by Saanich Police Chief Mike Chadwick, Leonard said.

"By definition, it's the chief's call. It's an operational issue. It's not a political issue. But the budget is, so it's in the police budget for 2013. So although it's not approved by council yet, by putting it in the police budget, it gives it the green light."


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