Introduction: Thank you Chief Constable Del Manak

Written by Harold McNeill on September 4th, 2019. Posted in Police Notebook, Editorials, Policing Reforms


Thank-you Chief Del Manak.
Along with your administrative staff and members, you have now taken ownership of challenges faced by VicPD and our Capital City. Don’t ever underestimate how important the step you have taken is in bringing about real change. It’s been over two decades since a Victoria Chief Constable pushed back against powerful backroom forces touting amalgamation as the only solution.

Introduction

This post serves to introduce both Chief Manak’s Transformation Report, as well as the broader discussion of policing in the CRD as presented in a recent four-part series Changing the way police do business.

While the Chief must cross many hurdles, he has taken the first step by asking his members and the citizens of Victoria to look inwards by defining what must be done if the force is to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

An initial move was made in the late 1980s and 90s, when another force insider, Chief Constable Douglas Richardson, and his immediate predecessor, worked to correct some long-standing deficiencies. Moving to the new police station on Caledonia was one giant step forward. However, following Richardson’s retirement in 1999, progress stalled for one simple reason – the voices of amalgamation took over City Hall and the Police Department.

Amalgamation or Bust

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Changing the way police do business (Part I)

Written by Harold McNeill on July 19th, 2019. Posted in Police Notebook, Editorials, Policing Reforms


I don’t think anything demonstrates the solidarity of police officers more than when attending the funeral of a comrade killed in the line of duty. This photo, taken in Moncton in 2014, captures the essence as officers from across Canada and around the world bid farewell to Constables Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, David Joseph Ross, 32, and Douglas James Larche, 40, killed during a shooting spree.

The shields of Central Saanich, Oak Bay, RCMP, Saanich, and Victoria represent the ideals of comrades in arms.

Introduction to Series

Part II, Comparing differing police cultures
Part III, The past as a guide to the future
Part IV The integration of police services

Link to CBC Podcast: Policing in the CRD

Contact: Harold@mcneillifestories.com

This series of posts will explore some of the past, present, and possible future directions of policing within the Capital Region. It will include discussions about differing police cultures, how they clash and how they work together; and, of course, thoughts about amalgamation, a topic frequently thrust into the public eye.

The Victoria/Esquimalt joint force will be singled out for additional scrutiny, as over the past sixteen years the debate about that merger is also kept in the public eye. While the administrators of the joint force often use the challenges they face as a bargaining chip, it is also used by others to advance an ideological purpose as in a recent letter penned by the President of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. (1)

Although the post will deal with sensitive areas of police work and police personality, I steadfastly maintain police officers in the CRD and across Canada, are among the very best in the world.  Corruption is not a part of our police culture and while it was present in the last century, it was rooted out and systems put in place to ensure it did not return.

When Canadian police officers swear their Oath of Office, they take that oath to heart.  What is sometimes lacking is solid, independent oversight of the sort that provides an unbiased assessment of police actions when those actions are called into question be they external or internal.

Also, in press articles, when references are made to ‘dysfunction’ or ‘a broken system’ by the press or others, they are overstating their case.  While the challenges to be addressed are difficult, those challenges do not stop our police officers from maintaining an even-handed approach in enforcing the law and helping citizens within our largely peaceful communities.

Part 1:   Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation

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Changing the way police do business (Part II)

Written by Harold McNeill on July 24th, 2019. Posted in Police Notebook, Editorials, Policing Reforms


As in society, diversity within the police is all about being Canadian. The opportunities provided by working together in a common purpose, while recognizing and encouraging individuality, far exceeds any gains that might be made by forcing everyone to follow the same path.

Introduction to Series

Part I, Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation.
Part III, The past as a guide to the future
Part IV The integration of police services

Link to CBC Podcast: Policing in the CRD

Contact: Harold@mcneillifestories.com

(When reading this series it is recommended you start with Part I as each part builds towards the next.)

PART II  Comparing Differing Police Cultures

Originally, I intended to move directly to the process of implementing change within and between police departments but decided it was first necessary to compare and contrast the differing organizational philosophies that underpin each.

In Part I, it was posited that over their history, Oak Bay, Saanich, and Central Saanich have come to share a similar policing style. Victoria and Esquimalt, even before the merger in 2003, developed a very different style. The RCMP in the West Shore, North Saanich, and Sidney, being part of a national organization, have followed a path quite distinct from their municipal counterparts.

This part of the series will delve into the historical specifics of those differences as well as the positive and negative effects this has on each agency in the present day.

The history and process of implementing change will now be set over to Part III.

3. Introduction:

Within the CRD, a large part of the difference between departments is revealed in the historical events that shaped each.  From the early 1960s to the present day leadership made all the difference. If leaders nurtured the development of other leaders, they progressed, if they tended towards a command and control style, progress was slowed.

While there are a time and place for Command and control leaders (times of crisis, etc.) they do tend to favour subordinates who follow rather than lead. Innovative, forward-thinking leaders, on the other hand, tend to encourage subordinates to take on leadership roles, the type of person willing to explore new ways of doing things. Until the 1960s, most police departments followed the Military/RCMP model of command and control, but over the decades since, many have moved towards a more progressive style.

It is also clear, the larger a police force becomes, the further leadership is removed from contact with the rank and file. In a heavily weighted, top-down system, leadership can lose sight of what is happening within the lower ranks. This is clearly a large part of the challenge faced by the RCMP in the current day and one reason behind that recent billion-dollar settlement with rank and file members.

To gain a better understanding of how we reached this point, and why some of the challenges seem intractable, take a few minutes to read Footnote (1), A Short History of Policing in the Capital Region.  While reading, give some thought to the challenge of merging police forces that have evolved different leadership styles?  Then, take a moment to think about private sector mergers and takeovers.

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Changing the way police do business (Part III)

Written by Harold McNeill on August 2nd, 2019. Posted in Police Notebook, Editorials, Policing Reforms


Chief Del Manak, VicPD. A good man caught between a department with a problematic past, and a future filled with uncertainty.  One thing is certain, the future will be filled with change whether it comes by choice, by chance, or by force. All police agencies have a choice, they can either resist or they can embrace!

Introduction to Series

Part I, Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation.
Part II, Comparing differing police cultures
Part IV The integration of police services

Link to CBC Podcast: Policing in the CRD

Contact: harold@mcneillifestories.com

(When reading this series it is recommended you start with Part I as each part builds towards the next.)

Part III   The past as a guide to the future

4. Introduction.

No matter what the future brings, in police budget discussions money is seldom the real issue. In this, you can rest assured every medium and large department across Canada fritter away hundreds of millions of dollars each year. They do so by maintaining enforcement regimes that are next to useless in terms of utilizing the full value of highly trained and experienced police officers.  What should stay, and what should go? These are the hard decisions that every police administrator must make and this can best be done by embracing the conflicts that come with change.

For small municipal departments and RCMP detachments, the issues are less critical as police members are generalists and, as such, their duties encompass the full spectrum of policing. They embrace the very essence of the Peelian Principles, where the Chief of the department might well end up on an emergency call with a Constable. However, the reality is, as departments grow in size through population expansion (e.g. the West Shore) or through amalgamation (e.g. Victoria/Esquimalt), the roles coalesce into increasingly specialized fields (e.g. patrol, traffic, administration, emergency response teams, detectives, with special units in fraud, homicide, robbery, cybercrimes, etc.).

Go to Toronto or look at their org chart, to get some sense of just how specialized they have become. Where is there room left to stay connected to Torontonians? (Toronto Org Chart, page 18ff). Scan the left two-thirds of the chart (Administrative and Corporate) then consider how much of the force is gobbled up by services that never touch the street!  There is considerable literature indicating there is good evidence to suggest that “medium-sized police services (i.e. those policing about 50,000 inhabitants) are more successful in dealing with crime and operational costs than much larger regional services.”  (link)

As discussed in an earlier part of this series, the efficiencies of size top out when departments service populations of around 50,000.  What gets lost in the process of growing beyond that point is the ability to find the ways and means of staying connected to the community in positive ways (e.g. the quintessential beat cop, school and community liaison, etc.).

While some argue merging forces will reduce costs and improve efficiencies, all you need do is make a quick estimate of the current costs of policing in the city and municipal forces across Canada (large and small) to see that isn’t true.

You can do a rough check by multiplying the number of sworn members by $200,000. By doing that, you will arrive at a number that is within +/- 10%, of the posted budget of every police department, in Canada. The $200,000 figure was taken from the GTA (Greater Toronto PD) as that is one of the largest city amalgamations of police in Canada and if amalgamation produces efficiencies of scale, Toronto should be the most efficient and cost-effective in Canada. It is far from being either.  Their budget is now $1 billion for 5000 sworn officers. Of course, there will be outliers in these figures, as that is true on every bell curve of many samples. Footnote 1, provides the calculations for policing budgets in BC and select cities across Canada.

While most police dollars are effectively spent, you need only explore traffic law enforcement to see how waste is built into the system. In general, police forces across Canada typically over-enforce traffic laws in ineffective ways and under-enforce in effective ways.  While some provinces, cities, and towns are taking steps to correct this anomaly, progress is slow. The challenge of traffic enforcement will be more fully explored later in this article.

Part of the reason for the slow progress lies in the ideological, but the major portion remains in the form of resistance to change as exhibited by police administrators and unions alike. Medium and large police forces, like every other large enforcement agency (e.g. CSIS, CBSA, RCMP), work hard at building the size of their organization as the prime means of meeting challenges, rather than looking for effective ways of making them smaller and more effective.

This part of the series explores these matters both historically and in the present day. While the focus will be on the CRD and British Columbia, similar considerations apply across Canada.

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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

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    January 15, 2021 |

    Wow, Graham, I was taken by surprise (but then again that’s not too hard). Having all you fine folks (my children by other fathers and mothers) would have been great. I’m hopeful that sometime in the not too distant future, we can reprise that trip. Perhaps we’ll just set aside a time for someone else’s landmark day, and we can surprise them. Love to you two. Harold

  • Graham and Nazanin

    January 15, 2021 |

    How could we miss this historic event my friend!!!
    Nazy and I were booked for that cruise Harold, we were looking so forward to it.
    We will be together soon! We both wish that continued unconditional love you receive from everyone to continue as you are that special someone that makes a difference in this world.
    Happy birthday sir, cheers!

  • Harold McNeill

    January 7, 2021 |

    Glad you found the site and that Dorthy enjoyed. I’ve added a lot of school photos in other locations linked to the High School Years stories. Cheers, Harold

  • Shelley Hamaliuk

    January 2, 2021 |

    Hi there, I am Dorothy Marshall’s (nee Hartman) daughter. Mom was quite excited when she discovered this site while surfing the net yesterday, so excited that she told me to have a look! She quite enjoyed taking a trip down memory and seeing old pictures of herself.Keep up the great work!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

  • McNeill Life Stories Index to Police Notebook - McNeill Life Stories

    February 16, 2020 |

    […] Part I, Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation. Part II, Comparing police cultures and implementing change Part III, The past as a guide to the future Part IV The integration of police services […]