Esquimalt councillors will spend the summer mulling over how to best proceed in the ongoing dispute to stick with Victoria police services, after residents weighed in on the township’s consideration of legal action against the province.
A special council meeting was held Monday night to allow public input into a mediator’s report on the matter released last month. Its findings, accepted by the Ministry of Justice, went against Esquimalt’s own police advisory panel recommendation that the municipality switch to RCMP services as a cost-saving measure. Only Victoria pays more per resident for police services in the Capital Regional District.
The most contentious issue is identifying who will pay to implement the report’s 43 recommendations and ultimately, how a lack of compliance, either by Victoria or Esquimalt, would be enforced.
“There’s no hammer, nothing to force anybody to do anything,” said Coun. Lynda Hundleby.
She said she was disillusioned after a 2010 audit of the Victoria Police Board failed to improve the working relationship between the two municipalities on the topic.
“The audit addressed our concerns, but nothing was done about it; it was dismissed. I get the feeling that we’ve been dismissed all along,” Hundleby said.
The township spent an estimated $300,000 compiling its rejected report, leaving councillors hesitant to take expensive legal action against the province.
Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said the mediator’s report contains several recommendations that would be expensive to implement, such as a CRD working group, intended to help create cost-sharing measures on regional policing concerns.
“VicPD have tried valiantly to create discussion for a more regionalized approach,” Desjardins told council Monday.
In a statement, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson wrote that the province would provide the “necessary support and resources” to implement the recommendations, including funding for a facilitator and “providing training to police board members to enhance and strengthen governance.”
Esquimalt council plans to revisit the issue at its Aug. 13 meeting.