COLUMN: Nelson’s police force has a proud history

City Councillor Robin Cherbo reflects on Nelson policing and the relationship between the Nelson police department and the RCMP.

With Nelson’s population over 10,100 and an increase in visitors, the Nelson Police Department will be busy this summer. The department has a proud history serving our community, as per the following quote from the webpage: “The Nelson Police Department is among the oldest in the Province. It came into being as a municipal police force on April 17, 1897. Nelson’s vibrant history is matched by the lively personalities who have served on this police authority over the years.”

From the Union of BC Municipalities website:

“In 1992, the provincial government signed a 20-year provincial police services agreement with the federal government to contract the RCMP as BC’s provincial police force. A new 20-year agreement was signed by both governments and came into effect on April 1, 2012.

“In addition to the provincial police services agreement, the provincial and federal governments signed a 20-year master agreement, the municipal police service agreement, which enables the provincial government to sub-contract the RCMP provincial force to municipalities. The agreement describes the terms and conditions for the provision of RCMP municipal police services.”

The municipal police service agreement also governs municipalities with their own police forces.

In the past, there have been suggestions about replacing the Nelson constabulary with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but it was never seriously examined or considered.

In 2012, there was a seminar at the Union of BC Municipalities convention called Policing in BC, which discussed the projected increase of cost for provincial RCMP municipal forces, and at that time some municipalities inquired about having a provincial police force instead of the RCMP.

As well, there were questions asked about the cost of the Nelson Police Department as compared to the RCMP. Since then RCMP costs have increased and there are shortages of RCMP officers to fill all the police positions in BC, especially now in the wake of terrorism threats to the provincial legislators, etc.

Presently the Nelson Police Department has a negotiated shared services with the West Kootenay RCMP. The professionalism of both forces is commendable and it is speculated that policing costs would be similar if RCMP were to replace city police. The important difference is city police officers spend most of their careers in the Nelson area while RCMP officers work on a rotation basis all around the province and country. Also, RCMP officers can be removed out of rural communities, without backfilling, if there is a major crime situation elsewhere in the province.

Recently there have been articles published about the former Nelson city council in relationship to the police board and police department. Since 2005 a number of police budgets have passed successfully. There may have been some misunderstanding in regards to certain aspects, but there never has been mistrust between the parties.

As well the Nelson police are always available to respond to serious situations in a timely manner. In the current situation in Nelson, in regards to staffing levels, it has been an ongoing discussion which needs to be resolved. The process of having an independent review is probably a good thing in order to settle the issue of staffing levels.

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