It's somewhat unclear as I write this, but there could finally be a resolution to a file I've been beavering away at for more than 5 years now.
It's the "major crimes investigations" file. In a nutshell, it revolves around the question of who pays the bill if the RCMP have to bring in major outside resources to investigate a big crime in our municipality.
We met with the Justice Minister on this (again) at UBCM last month - I believe it was the fifth time in six years that North Cowichan brought this up in one venue or another at that convention. And now, it appears the Province is moving on this file by proposing some amendments to the Police Act.
According to the Times Colonist today, the amendments would "force municipalities to participate in integrated police units that investigate crimes across jurisdictions."
What's unclear from the story is how broadly this will be applied. Being a Victoria newspaper, the TC story focuses on the impact of the legislation on the long-running political fight in the Capital Region over integrating the various municipal police forces down there. The only thing I've been able to find online is a reference to amendments to the Police Act in "Bill 4, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2014", which was introduced in the Legislature on Friday. Haven't been able to find the actual text of the Bill.
What we really need to know is whether the new rules will apply to municipalities such as North Cowichan and others; those with a population over 5,000 who pay the lion's share of their own policing in a Provincially-negotiated contract with the RCMP.
North Cowichan has been considering the idea of contributing to the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit (VIIMCU) as sort of an "insurance policy" against having to pay huge costs for outside investigators if we ever got hit with a major crime. (Those costs can easily and very quickly run into the millions of dollars.)
Fundamentally, the Times-Colonist story raises two questions:
1) Will participation indeed be "mandatory" for everyone? And what will that look like? Money? Resources? Allocating a staff member/Mountie to the integrated unit? (And on what formula? Crime rate history? Population? Property value assessment?)
2) Will this participation relieve municipalities of responsibility for all costs in "extraordinary" investigations that take up large amounts of police resources? The last time we discussed this with RCMP brass from Surrey - just a few months ago - we were explicitly told that if North Cowichan were to second a detachment member to VIIMCU, it would cover "most of" the costs, but that truly "extraordinary" costs might still be billed back.
I've asked municipal staff to research the issue; hopefully we'll have some answers by the end of the coming week.
Stay tuned. This may be getting interesting.