Changing the way police do business (Part IV)

Written by Harold McNeill on August 15th, 2019. Posted in Police Notebook, Editorials, Policing Reforms


Your police forces work cooperatively to provide the best service possible.  Locally, across the nation, and around the world integration is the best model to follow in terms of bringing together the disparate parts of policing in common purpose.

Introduction to Series

Part I. Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation
Part II, Comparing differing police cultures
Part III, The past as a guide to the future

Link to CBC Podcast: Policing in the CRD

Part IV: Integration vs Amalgamation

1.  Introduction

By the time you’ve reached this part, and assuming you read the first three parts, you may understand why amalgamating police forces is likely the biggest mistake that could be made in terms of addressing modern-day policing challenges in the Capital Region. While amalgamation seems intuitively reasonable, those who promote the idea do not take into account the powerful forces at play even in organizations as similar as the police agencies within the Captial Region.

Take the banking system as an example. Would anyone think it reasonable to merge banks into one as serving the best interests of the people in Greater Victoria? In terms of function, the police are no different than a bank, in that they perform an essential public service within an ever-expanding circle from local to national and international.

To function at their best, each constituent part must work at integrating their system into the whole, one that maximizes not only their ability to solve internal challenges but, at the same time, expanding their ability to work together in common purpose. That is were integration outpaces amalgamation.

Even a partial merger, say that of Victoria and Saanich, would be immensely difficult and extremely damaging to both forces. While VicPD may gain an increase in staffing levels, as they did in with Esquimalt merger, the underlying issues facing VicPD could very well be exacerbated. You might simply have a larger force with the same problems. In side-discussions with persons whose opinions I trust, I rather think that has happened in areas where moderate and large scale amalgamations have taken place.

The beautiful thing about integration is that it allows each police agency to maintain an individual identity, while at the same time fully participating and cooperating as a part of the whole.

Across the Capital Region, throughout B.C., and across Canada, integration has become the modern, forward-looking way of bringing disparate police forces, as well as other emergency service providers and community groups, together in common purpose. By doing this, no one group dominates the whole.

The contrary happens with amalgamation. First, you amalgamate, then you must try to divide the whole into equitable parts. That is what the former Victoria Chief Constable (Jamie Graham) proposed with his “Four District” plan as outlined in Part II of this series (Section 6).  The likely outcome? Only one culture would survive and that particular culture may not be the best.  Perhaps, many discerned that in the VicPD/Esquimalt merger as expressed in this article in the Victoria News on March 13, 2019: Local powers say a regionalized police force needed for Greater Victoria: VicPD, Victoria, Esquimalt, and Grumpy Taxpayer$ argue for police amalgamation

This part of the series will explore the nature of integration in the Captial Region and how that integration is changing the face of policing as it was often practiced through much of the last century.  It is a form of police merger the selects best practices and expands them to the entire region on a voluntary basis.  For those who choose to withdraw and go it alone, it’s at their peril.

2. The Methods of Integration

The balance of this article is still being written and will be completed within a week to ten days.  Part of the reason for the delay is awaiting input from both internal and external police sources.

As a beginning, please take a few moments to consider the following aspects of integration that have already taken place within the Capital Region. These headings are copied from Oak Bay Police documents, a police agency that has fully involved its members in the integration project.  Go to the site link for a more complete explanation of each of the following items.

Police Integration in the Captial Region

Integrated Units

  • RDVU–Regional Domestic Violence Unit
  • MYST – Mobile Youth Services Team
  • IMCRT–Integrated MobileCrisis Response Team
  • GVPDAC – Greater Victoria Police Diversity Advisory Committee
  • VIIMCU–Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crimes Unit
  • CFSEU–Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit
  • IRSU–Integrated Road Safety Unit
  • Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers
  • E-INSET–Integrated National Security Enforcement Team
  • E-Comm–Consolidated Dispatch
  • GVERT–Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team
  • CMU–Crowd Management Unit
  • ITCU–Integrated Tech Crimes Unit
  • SPD/OBPD shared services agreement
  • OBPD Detective working out of Saanich Detective Office (2-year trial)
  • Sharing of recruit scoring/polygraph
  • POPAT Testing
  • Mutual aid when needed
  • Routine cooperation among agencies

The Organizational Structure

  • Regional Joint Management Team (Deputy Chiefs) reporting to Area Police Chiefs
  • Overall strategic oversight of the integrated units
  • Each unit has an individual JMT (Joint Management Team) and/or unit supervisor
  • Day-to-day operations are overseen by unit supervisors and/or JMT

Operations/Oversight

  • Annual budgets/reports are prepared and forwarded to RJMT (Regional JMT)
  • RJMT assesses budgets, activities and looks for any needed changes
  • Area Chiefs approve provisional budgets and changes
  • Final approval by Police Board(s) prior to presentation to Councils

Participation Criteria

  • Ongoing discussions around possibilities in a variety of areas
  • Each agency must assess the value of participation using a wide range of metrics – depending on service need
  • Consideration of:
    • Crime Trends
    • Identified gaps in service
    • Resource efficiency
    • Organizational risk

Participation Considerations

  • Overall value for investment is the main consideration – Is participation meeting need
  • Can accomplish more collectively than individually
  • Consideration of Provincial Policing Standards

Participation: Opt-in / Opt-out

  • All parties engage in discussions
  • Only participating agencies have the right to vote
  • Minimum commitment of 3 years to units
  • Notice of one full budget year required to opt-out
  • Decision with Police Chiefs with input from Police Boards
  • Board approval for new resources

Funding Sources

  • Standardized funding formulas have been established:
    • Units involving the RCMP:
    • 1/4 each of strength, population, assessment, and file count
    • Units not involving the RCMP:
    • 1/3 each of strength, population, and assessment

Continuation in Progress  (this post will be continued when other examples of integration)

The balance of this article will focus on additional ways and means of integrating services as follows from the experience of other agencies across BC and Canada.

Given the VicPD joint force apparently faces several pressing problems, special attention will be given to those challenges, and how others might help to relieve the pressure.  Coincidently, many of the challenges are not all that different from those experienced in many other urban and suburban areas across Canada.

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  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email: Harold@mcneillifestories.com)

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.