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Delta throwback: Regional police force a non-starter

Delta has never been keen to be part of one large integrated police force
1974 delta police officer Norm Morrison
A 1974 Delta Optimist photo of Const. Norm Morrison of the Delta Police Force. He said one of the attractions of law enforcement work was going out on the street and talking to people.

The debate over whether Lower Mainland municipalities should have one regional police force comes up every few years.

Scrapping individual municipal police departments to create one region-wide force was a hotly debated topic going back to 1968.

An October story in the Optimist that year reported that Mayor Dugald Morrison was strongly opposed to his city participating in a regional cost study on creating a single metropolitan force.

The mayor made council’s opinion known after Vancouver City Council suggested Greater Vancouver Municipalities join in the cost study.

“We have an excellent hand-picked force in Delta,” said Morrison.

The mayor also said if a one metro force was created, all Delta would get the “dregs” from Vancouver, adding “we would get poorer service.”

Several other mayors throughout the region at the time also said they weren’t interested, conveying similar concerns.

The idea of regional policing was also debated in 2013 when then Delta CAO George Harvie wrote a report on the potential amalgamation of police forces in Metro Vancouver, and how it could impact Delta.

His report noted such amalgamations elsewhere have produced mixed bags of benefits and drawbacks, and that some communities benefit to the detriment of others.

The report warned of, among other things, loss of services and local control.

Police costs would also be spread out over the region and it is likely that communities like Delta would end up paying more for reduced services levels, the report noted.

The report also warned there would be a loss of local governance and accountability.

Then Mayor Lois Jackson agreed, saying, “We have one of the best police forces anywhere. You could not duplicate that level of service with a regional force.”

Chair of the Delta Police Board, Jackson also said the community would lose the local department's “no call too small” policy as well as the connection that comes when police officers live in the community where they work.

The proposal for a regional force came to the forefront that year after Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Police Chief Jim Chu and the Vancouver Police Board endorsed 63 recommendations, including the establishment of a regional force, from a report by missing women inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal.

Jackson said the report pointed to a lack of leadership and co-operation between departments as a factor in the Willy Pickton serial killer case, but the same thing would not happen today.

Harvie’s report also noted there had been significant advances in communication, data sharing and cooperation between police departments.