A few weeks back, Victoria, Esquimalt and the VicPD were finally treated to an outside analysis of the protracted comedy of errors that has formed their relationship in recent years.
While the report by consultant Jean Greatbatch & Assoc., ultimately recommends keeping the amalgamated force, it also reveals a long history of deceit, xenophobia and gleeful incompetence on all sides of the ongoing debate over the 2003 amalgamation of the cities’ police forces.
The report’s criticism starts at day one, noting that the initial amalgamation process neglected to allow for any reviews of service delivery, budgeting or the general satisfaction of anyone involved in the contract. These provisions would have proven useful in 2004 when then-chief Paul Battershill eliminated the Vic West community policing division — an integral part of the initial agreement — and relocated several Esquimalt officers to the downtown beat.
Aiming to address the growing conflict, a 2010 review of the amalgamated force recommended a number of changes to allow Esquimalt greater control over its police. The ability to contract with forces other than VicPD, the ability to establish an independent oversight body accountable to Esquimalt council, and an attempt to fill the void of budget control all would have provided Esquimalt with some much needed breathing room.
Unfortunately, true to form, an unnamed group of Victoria senior staff and police board members took it upon themselves to challenge not only the results of the 2010 review, but the authority of the province’s director of police services to even get involved.
The criticism levelled at VicPD in Greatbatch’s report is relentless. The report describes failed attempts by Esquimalt council to simply receive the same information given to the City of Victoria; near universal confusion over the responsiblity and proper authority of almost every part of VicPD governance; a dearth of standard governance policies that would help avoid conflict; and neglect of duty by the police board itself.
The list of offences this report offers is too long to even begin to complete here, and no one has walked away from this process looking good, but there is a silver lining. The report’s salient point is that the amalgamation was never given a chance to succeed.
Greatbatch makes 43 recommendations on how to set things right, and taxpayers can only hope that VicPD is currently discussing just how fast it can implement every single one. M