"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Regional policing? Show me the evidence

Tri-Cities 'regional policing' meeting. Photo by Terry O'Neill

You might have heard that members of the three Tri-Cities councils gathered for a closed-door meeting last night in Port Coquitlam to hear a pair of luminaries speak about regional policing. PoCo Mayor Greg Moore, who organized the meeting (and is chair of Metro Vancouver), blogged about the meeting this morning, so I now feel free to put my oar in the water, as well. And that oar will most definitely splash some cold water on the regional-police idea.
Neither of the two speakers,  Wally Oppal QC, a former BC Attorney-General and head of last year’s Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (which recommended a regional police force), nor Dr. Rick Parent, a former police officer who is now a professor at SFU’s Criminology Department, mounted anywhere near an effective argument in favour of regional policing.
In fact, while several of my colleagues and I entered the meeting with open minds on the subject, we left having been persuaded that there was precious little to support the idea of regional policing. I doubt that this outcome was the intent of the meeting, but it was surely the result among the Coquitlam Council members with whom I discussed the proceedings.
Mr. Oppal himself admitted, “a regional police force is not a panacea for everything, and they can make mistakes;” nevertheless, the many systemic communication and investigatory failures associated with the Missing Women case made it clear to him that a regional force is needed.
I asked Mr. Oppal whether he actually had any evidence to support this contention—whether it was a theoretical supposition he was making that a regional force would perform better than the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team that is now in place regionally (albeit without the participation of Vancouver, Port Moody and Delta*).  He offered no evidence, but did argue that a regional force would at least have a proper civilian oversight body in place.
Similarly, Dr. Parent was short on objective information. When he asserted that current “best practices” argued for regional policing, I said that “best practices” was one thing, but I was more interested in outcomes. I asked what the comparative outcomes are. He had no answer.
The fact that the professor’s PowerPoint presentation contained some annoying spelling errors (“two-tired” instead of “two-tiered,” for example), certainly didn’t help his case.
And neither Mr. Oppal nor Dr. Parent’s cause was helped by Assistant Commissioner Norm Lipinski, head of the RCMP in the Lower Mainland, who took it upon himself at meeting’s end to walk to the front of the room and provide some detailed information about the many steps undertaken by the RCMP in recent years to improve communication and coordination—integrated teams dealing with homicides, and the PRIME information-gathering system being in the forefront.
He also explained that a provincial intelligence centre now exists and that, in April, a Real Time Intelligence Centre will open, similar to New York’s increasingly famous Real Time Crime Center.
The bottom line is that much has already been done to modernize policing in the region, and that much of this modernization deals with issues that might be handled by the proposed regional police force. In light of this, and in light of the high approval rating that our police force receives in Coquitlam, not to mention the very good value-for-the-dollar, the ever-decreasing crime rate, and the excellent relationship Council has with our detachment, I’m prepared to declare that I am opposed to regional policing at present.

*I learned later that West Vancouver is also not participating in IHIT.

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