The Victoria police hope to pilot a new project that would see steady blue lights mounted on police vehicles to make police presence more visible. (Black Press Media file photo)

Victoria police seek to pilot blue-lighted vehicles for increased visibility

Police have already purchased the lights and are awaiting provincial approval

The Victoria Police Department is hoping to pilot a new project that would see steady blue lights mounted on its Charger vehicles to make police presence more visible, a first in Canada.

Since July the Victoria Police Department has been working with the provincial government to try to get approval for the lights, as is required under the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations. It has also enlisted members of the Delta Police Department to also express interest in the idea.

In a Freedom of Information (FOI) release, emails between the Ministry of Transportation and the Victoria Police Department show slow progress on the initiative.

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“While it may seem like a local issue, the act and application of it is a province-wide consideration, and we must be satisfied that this request is able to be attributable to others that may wish to do the same,” wrote Geoff Ford, acting manager of the Inspections and Standards Program at the Ministry of Transportation.

Ford corresponded mostly with Insp. Colin Brown, who is in charge of the VicPD Executive Services Division, as well as Chief Const. Del Manak.

Within the correspondences, VicPD said their reasoning behind the request was because “VicPD has heard loud and clear that our citizens would like to see more of our officers in the community.”

Ford asked if there had been any evidence of similar initiatives being effective in other communities, but internal emails from VicPD Deputy Chief Const. Colin Watson indicate there was little information available.

“There are jurisdictions in the USA that have piloted this, and I believe there is some research that suggests some positive outcomes from it. A literature review should be able to provide some information on impact,” Watson said.

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Later on it was indicated that the Honolulu Police Department uses the blue lights on their “cruise mode” but there is no data to lay out any results.

In the same email, a draft of answers sent to Manak, Watson answered the ministry’s questions about how success will be measured.

“Ideally, a robust outcomes focused evaluation would be ideal,” Watson wrote. “The steps required to do this would be ideal for something with our EBP Committee, but in honesty we are not sure there yet in terms of expertise and time. We could consider trying to partner with academia on this, perhaps through SFU?”

Despite a lack of research, pilot planning or provincial approval, as of Nov. 20, 2019 the VicPD had already purchased six light bars with the steady blue light option. Costs have not been disclosed, but internal memos indicate both new lights and retrofitting older lights are low-cost investments.

Victoria resident Stephen Harrison, who filed the FOI request, posted his findings online and called the Victoria Police Department “incredibly presumptuous” for purchasing the lights before approval, and that the move was just one step closer to a “surveillance state.”

Manak wrote that he hopes to see the pilot moving forward as quickly as possible for a one-year trial period.

Black Press Media reached out to VicPD for an update on the situation, but Manak was not immediately available.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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