Special committee recommends replacing RCMP with provincial police

Time to replace RCMP?

UPDATE 7 p.m.

A committee appointed to reform British Columbia's Police Act recommends moving to a provincial police service to achieve a new vision of policing and community safety.

The special committee, comprising members of the legislature from all three parties, was established to consider reforms for independent oversight, training, funding, service delivery and other issues that would modernize law enforcement in the province.

The report tabled Thursday in the legislature says the committee was appointed amid widespread awareness of systemic racism in policing, a demand for more accountability and questions about police responses to mental health and addictions issues.

"Our report outlines a vision for policing and community safety that is rooted in decolonization, anti-racism, community and accountability," committee chairman Doug Routley, a member of the NDP government, said in the legislature.

"To achieve this vision, there will need to be major changes to the structure and delivery of police services, including provincial and regional policing, oversight, accountability for policing and community safety that is rooted in decolonization, anti-racism, community and accountability," he said.

Some of the report's 11 recommendations can be implemented quickly but others will take "many years and successive parliaments," said Routley.

"Our recommendations aim to provide police officers with the tools and support they need to ensure British Columbians have equitable access to high-quality police and community safety services in every community across the province," he said.

He said an integral component of this will be addressing systemic racism in policing and the lack of trust between people, communities and the police.

Liberal Dan Davies, the committee's deputy chairman, told the legislature that over the past year and a half, it has heard hundreds of witness statements from police agencies, social service providers, municipalities and members of the public, including those from "diverse and marginalized populations."

"The recommendations in this report are bold, very bold," said Davies.

"There are incredible challenges that we all know too well around mental health and addictions, challenges in the justice system."

There are 13 independent forces in B.C. and the RCMP polices the remainder of the province, including almost all of rural B.C.

A statement from RCMP Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, the commanding officer in B.C., said they'll take time to review the report and until that is complete, they won't speculate on next steps.

"The RCMP has a complex role in B.C. as we deliver services at the municipal, provincial and federal level," his statement said.

B.C.'s contract with the RCMP expires in 2032.

"I am very proud of the RCMP team that works incredibly hard every day to keep B.C. communities safe and secure and we remain committed to doing so," McDonald said.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the committee's recommendations echo the government's belief that everyone deserves equal treatment by police.

"This has not always been the case for many Indigenous, Black and other people of colour," Farnworth said in a statement. "Public trust requires that the delivery of police services is fair, equitable and responsive to all British Columbians."

The government will discuss the recommendations in the coming months with Indigenous partners, community organizations, health and mental-health groups, police leadership, agencies and police oversight bodies, Farnworth said.

The Canadian Press

UPDATE 4:28 p.m.

The Commanding Officer of the BC RCMP, Dwayne McDonald, has responded to the committee report calling for a new provincial police force saying he will take time to review the report but that he is proud of the work the RCMP does in British Columbia.

"I am very proud of the RCMP team that works incredibly hard everyday to keep BC communities safe and secure and we remain committed to doing so.”

"We will take the time to fully analyze and review the Committee’s report and their recommendations. Until that fulsome review is completed we won’t speculate on next steps. Discussions around the role and future of policing are not limited to BC and includes considerations such as governance, accountability, service delivery and funding. Efforts are already underway to evolve, modernize and enhance policing," McDonald says.

The RCMP contract runs until 2032.

ORIGINAL 4:00 p.m.

A special committee has recommended British Columbia create its own new provincial police force.

The Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act was appointed to examine policing in the province after accusations of systemic racism and other policing issue problems.

CTV News Vancouver is reporting that the committee spent 15 months looking into issues like accountability and responses to calls involving mental health and addictions.

The committee's recommendations include 11 key points including for B.C. to establish a new Community Safety and Policing Act, and create a provincial police agency that would be governed by that legislation.

"It has become clear that transformative change is required to achieve a new vision of policing and community safety rooted in decolonization, anti-racism, community and accountability," reads the committee's report to the legislature, published Thursday.

RCMP is the default police service for municipalities with a population under 5,000 people, as well as rural and unincorporated areas, but many larger areas like Kelowna are policed by the RCMP as well.

The committee praised the Mounties for trying to evolve but ultimately felt there was too great disconnect between provincial and municipal policing priorities, “in their experience, the RCMP does not align with B.C. community culture and norms as effectively as municipal police services.”

“They emphasized the importance of ensuring the Police Act focuses on public safety and allows for local norms and expectations to be reflected in service delivery," the report reads.

Dr. Bonnie Henry was particularly concerned by the criminal justice-based approach to the ongoing overdose crisis, noting that adjustments to the existing Police Act could help the province move toward decriminalization.

The National Police Federation union, called the discussion "a little premature."

"From our perspective, we've done waves – numerous waves – of independent research in policing in British Columbia, and consistently British Columbians have told us that they're very satisfied with the policing they receive from the RCMP," union president Brian Sauvé told CTV News.

-with files from CTV News Vancouver

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