A report from the provincial police board association, and another from a former judge and BC Attorney General, have both recommended against mayors serving as the chair of municipal police boards.
In 2012, Mike McIndoe of Nelson co-authored a report for the BC Association of Police Boards, resulting in the association recommending to the provincial government that it change the legislation that requires the mayor to be the police board chair.
McIndoe was a member of the Nelson police board at the time and a member of the executive of the provincial association.
McIndoe’s report cites several earlier reports that have supported its conclusions, not the least being a 1994 report on policing in BC written by Justice Wally Oppal, who later became BC’s Attorney General.
“Board members should be as apolitical as possible,” Oppal wrote, “and as a political representative, a mayor would be an inappropriate chair.”
The mayor in the role of police board chair creates the potential for some awkward situations such as the recent disagreement between Nelson’s city council and its police board about the police budget.
The police asked the city for an increase in staffing, the city refused, and the police board appealed that decision to the director of police services in Victoria, who is in the process of reviewing it.
It could be said that Kozak, because of her dual role, asked herself for increased funding, then turned herself down, then indignantly reported herself to the office of police services. Presented with that way of looking at it, Kozak laughs ruefully and agrees.
“It certainly is a strange thing,” she says. “It is like splitting yourself in half. I am acutely conscious of what hat I am wearing at a particular table.”
Nelson is one of eleven cities in BC that has its own police force. Appointed boards oversee those police departments in order to provide independent civilian oversight of policing. No other province has a law that says the mayor must be the chair of the board.
To change that law, the provincial government would have to amend the BC Police Act. Contacted by the Star, the Ministry of Justice said it has no plans to do so.
The members of the Nelson Police Board are, in addition to Kozak, Barb Henry, Bill Reid, Hilda Taylor, Robert Goertz, and Roger Higgins.