Recent History – 2002
May 30, 2002, By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
The Peace River Regional District (PRRD) has a proposal for regional policing to take to Victoria.
Directors and municipal council members agreed Wednesday on a taxation formula to finance regional policing that is based on proximity to a police detachment.
Under the scenario homeowners in communities that have a detachment — Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Tumbler Ridge, Chetwynd, and Hudson’s Hope — would pay $112.58 per $100,000 of assessed value.
Homeowners in communities without a detachment, namely Taylor and Pouce Coupe, would pay $56.29 per $100,000.
Those in the rural areas would pay $45.03 per $100,000, and get the added benefit of being assessed on improvements only while all others would be assessed on land and improvements.
In return, the Peace-Liard — the Northern Rockies Regional District (NRRD) will also participate and is working out a formula — would get a more responsive and more efficiently-run police force according to RCMP Superintendent Michael Morris, who made a presentation to local politicians.
In essence, a medium sized detachment of 86 members and no more than 115 support staff would be created to cover both the PRRD and the NRRD with administration and operational support based in Fort St. John. The reduced duplication would free up 4.5 full-time police at the senior level.
“We could put them out on the road, we could put them out on shifts, so that we have the availability of a senior seasoned veteran at all times as near as a radio button on the intercom,” Morris said.
Police would also be more flexible when it comes to handling rural calls. For example, currently only three members at the Dawson Creek detachment and four at Fort St. John handle rural calls but under the new system, all the members would have the mandate to respond to calls in the rural areas as well as in the municipalities.
“If the call is 30 miles, 40 miles, 100 miles out of town, the nearest available member can respond to that particular call. They’re not impeded by boundaries and borders any longer,” Morris said.
Implementing new technical developments would also be easier because the search for funding would be less bureaucratic. Police would be able to take a request to just one source, rather than dealing with several municipalities and the province.
“We see this as nothing but 100 per cent in the right direction,” Morris said.
The concept of regional policing in the PRRD dates back to 1995, but gained new impetus when the B.C. Liberal government announced late last year an intention to start charging small communities and rural residents for policing services.
Exactly what the province intends to do is still unknown. But based on assumptions about how much the province will charge, consultant Gary Williams estimated a leakage of between $1.8 and $4.3 million in tax revenue into the provincial coffer over the actual cost of policing in northeast B.C.
PRRD chair Karen Goodings said allowing the Peace-Liard to run its own police force would still be of benefit to the provincial government in that it can offload a costly responsibility.
“What’s in it for the province is a solution to bringing policing to the regional level that they might be able to use in other areas of this province,” she said. “It’s a huge move for them to allow us to take over something that has become a very very expensive provincial cost.”
Under the PRRD’s proposal, the province would still be responsible for such statutory responsibilities as highway patrol, major crimes unit and aboriginal policing. Also, the Peace would still get its portion of the federal subsidy for policing.
The PRRD will present its proposal to the B.C. Liberal government on June 10.