For your consideration - Thom Barker

For your consideration - Thom Barker

A change of uniform won’t address policing issues

A proposal for a provincial police force to replace RCMP smacks of window-dressing

Does policing need to be reformed in B.C.?

It sure does.

Is the answer to policing reform in B.C. to create a provincial police force.

It sure isn’t.

That is what a special committee of the Legislature came up with, however.

That is not to say the committee, made up of members from all the political parties represented in the Legislature, didn’t come up with good recommendations.

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At the heart of policing reform are a number of key issues including alignment with First Nations justice strategy, effective civilian oversight, adjusting the role of police as first responders in mental health calls, decriminalization of drug users and improving the municipal funding model.

Those things are addressed in the committee’s final report, but creating a new provincial force does not address those issues by itself.

A big theme of the review was accountability and trust. I suppose an argument could be made that a new police force would be a fresh start and thus could, at least initially, instill a newfound sense of trust.

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But just how fresh a start would it be, really?

Let’s not forget that B.C. had its own provincial police force until 1950 when the government of the day decided to hand the reins over to the RCMP.

The day after the transition, by and large, the 500-odd officers on the streets were the same officers who had been on the streets the day before.

One can only imagine that the day after the next transition — ostensibly sometime in 2032 when the province’s contract with the Mounties expires — there will have been, for the most part, a change of uniform only.

There are only so many qualified police officers in the country.

That is not to disparage the many good people who work for the RCMP, but meaningful change will only come from addressing the systemic problems.

For example, we already have civilian oversight of the RCMP in the form of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO). But that organization is chronically underfunded, understaffed and has no real teeth.

I am, in fact, neutral on creating a provincial police force. I am just saying if the other issues are not addressed in a meaningful way, it’s not going to matter if the badge says RCMP or BCPP.

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