New RCMP deal for Coquitlam
Coquitlam is the latest municipality policed by Mounties to sign on to a new national contract with the RCMP.
On Monday, council inked the 20-year deal despite reservations by some councillors about future costs for — and accountability of — the RCMP.
And a few councillors said they would welcome the chance to study the possibility of forming a regional police force with neighbouring municipalities.
The debate about whether to sign the agreement has been a hot topic in recent months, with many B.C. municipalities complaining about the negotiation process and, in particular, the unresolved price tag for the new E-Division headquarters in Surrey.
Unsigned cities — including Port Coquitlam, which shares a detachment with Coquitlam — twice forced the provincial government to extend the deadline after criticizing senior officials about the lack of information available as they finalize their annual budgets.
B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond has said she won't be pushing the deadline past June 30 and municipalities that don't agree to the contract will effectively be giving notice they plan to sever ties with the federal police force. To date, 10 B.C. cities remain as hold-outs.
Despite the unanswered questions — and some Coquitlam councillors saying they were signing "under duress" — council voted 8-1 in favour of signing the contract, with many pointing to the city's recent Ipsos-Reid citizen survey, which shows a 92% satisfaction rate with the local RCMP.
Coun. Terry O'Neill said residents would be confused if council didn't agree to the new deal, given the latest poll results.
"We would have a disturbed and upset electorate," he said.
Other supporters on council also cited the loss of the 10% federal subsidy as being a reason to continue. "We get good bang for the buck," Coun. Linda Reimer said, adding a city police department — as in neighbouring Port Moody — would swell property taxes.
Still, Coun. Lou Sekora, the sole councillor to vote against the deal, said he likes PoMo Police's motto of "no call too small." Many times, he argued, Coquitlam RCMP don't respond to requests for help such as break-and-enters in the Pacific Reach business park.
But without the federal cash and resources, the local detachment would be "bankrupt" after major investigations like the Robert Pickton serial murder case in PoCo, Mayor Richard Stewart countered.
Just hours before Coquitlam city council signed the new RCMP deal, local Mounties rolled out their three-year strategic plan showing how they aim to do better.
The 2012-'15 plan, described by Coquitlam's top cop, Supt. Claude Wilcott, as a "road map to good everyday work," was prepared over the past year — and implemented April 1 — with the help of two external research consultants.
As well, officials worked with stakeholders from groups such as the Ministry of Children and Family Development, SUCCESS, Immigrant Services Society of BC, the Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Force, School District 43 and the Austin Heights BIA to formulate "opportunities and challenges" over the next three years.
And an online survey generated 377 responses from residents living in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam, of whom 86% said they were "very happy" with the local RCMP, Insp. Paulette Freill told the city's council-in-committee.
The detachment's challenges include: new federal legislation and regulatory policy changes (i.e., Taser use); increasing community growth and demographics; and the changing nature of policing and safety (i.e., homelessness).
Freill also noted Coquitlam RCMP has a dedicated officer to handle the number of mental health files: In 2010, Mounties dealt with 1,100 cases under the Mental Health Act; two people went to court and their charges were eventually stayed, she said.
Still, despite the pressures and drain on resources, Freill said Coquitlam RCMP receives good community support and has strong relationships with its partners.