Here are ten recommendations from the 2003 report on municipal police board governance from the Justice Institute of BC. There are many more recommendations listed in Appendix A of the report. Here, I’ve simply picked a few of the more interesting ones:
1) The Police Services Division should establish an annual plan for how they will provide effective support to municipal police boards.
2) Municipal police boards should adopt an agenda format that focuses discussion on issues of substance and that other matters be presented in the form of reports, which are supplied in pre-meeting reading package.
3) Municipal police boards should take steps to minimize discussion and time spent on matters that are for information only and focus discussion on issues that directly pertain to governance of the police department.
4) Municipal police boards should discuss, in public and within the confines of privacy legislation, both positive and negative agenda items.
5) Municipal police board meetings should be held regularly in public locations, where the public has free and unfettered access.
6) Municipal police boards should actively discuss and review their policy on which matters are moved to the in-camera portion of the board meeting.
7) The Police Services Division should allocate dedicated staff and resources such that reports of municipal police board in-camera meetings are reviewed in a timely manner.
8) The Police Act should be amended such that the Chair of the municipal police board be elected from within the board.
9) The Police Act should be amended such that the Mayor be an ex officio, non-voting member of the municipal police board.
10) Municipal police boards and police departments should actively seek out opportunities and venues in which the work and the contribution of the board might be better publicly recognized and acknowledged.
Today, the Times Colonist notes that Britain is experimenting with elected police commissioners. The editorial wonders if a similar system would work here, but makes no mention of the fact that citizens in BC directly elected police board members between 1917 and 1957.
This doesn’t surprise me. When it comes to policing, we think about our modern society, we don’t think about history.
In 2003, the SolGen’s office, through the Justice Institute of BC, published a review of municipal police board governance. Page 21 notes the history of police boards in British Columbia:
- 1996 (Police Act): Required all municipal police departments (12) to be governed by a panel of up to seven members consisting of a mayor, one person appointed by the municipal council, and up to five other persons appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The enactment of this legislation strengthened the ongoing influence of provincial authority over police boards.
- 1974 (Police Act): Replaced all preceding legislation on police boards and required all municipal police departments (12) to be governed by a panel of five consisting of a mayor (ex officio chairman), one person appointed by municipal council, and three persons appointed by the Lieutenant- Governor in Council. The enactment of this legislation guaranteed the ongoing influence of provincial government authority over police boards.
- 1957 (Municipal Act): Provincial legislation that abolished “direct election boards” and required that boards be comprised of a mayor (or Reeve) who was ex officio chairman, one person appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, and another by municipal council. The interesting part of these changes was the absence of comment restricting whom council could appoint (i.e. the person could be an elected official).
- 1917 (Municipal Act Amendment Act): All municipalities were required to have a board comprised of a mayor (or reeve), who was ex officio Chairman of the Board, and two other persons who were to be directly elected to their positions on the board by the citizens of the municipality.
- 1899 (Municipal Clauses Act Amendment Act): Representation on police boards changed. Two persons would be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, one of who would be a member of Council. This amendment removed the requirement for judicial representation, increased elected municipal representation on the board and re-emphasized the provincial government’s desire to control policing.
- 1896 (Municipal Clauses Act replaces the Municipal Act): Only cities were required to have police boards. Boards were comprised of a mayor, police magistrate and a person selected by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. All municipalities were required to report to the Superintendent of Police. Again, Vancouver and New Westminster were exempt.
- 1893 (Municipalities Act Amendment Act): Provincial statute requires all municipalities to establish a police board comprised of a mayor, the local county or district judge and police magistrate. The only municipalities exempt were Vancouver and New Westminster. This Act effectively conceded provincial power over governance of the police from the Superintendent of Police to the municipalities.
I’ve edited this timeline for clarity and brevity. Check out the original timeline on page 21 here (which itself is based on the research of Philip Stenning in his report Police Commissions and Boards in Canada).
I’ve obtained Addenda 1, 2, 3 and 5 from the Esquimalt Request for Proposals for the Provision of Policing Services. These documents have never been online before today.
Because the RFP is a public document, amendments to the RFP (called addenda) are also supposed to be public. As Esquimalt stated in section 11.7 of the RFP: “Where the process is modified prior to the closing time for proposal submissions, the Town intends to post Addenda on its website at http://www.esquimalt.ca.”
Here is what actually happened: Esquimalt forgot to post most of the documents.
Here is a screenshot from the Esquimalt Policing and Law Enforcement Advisory Board page:
You can see that, as of August 7th, 2012, only Addendum 4 was posted online.
There is no debate as to whether the other addenda should have been posted. Addendum 1, for example, explicitly states that, “The questions and responses from today’s site meeting will be recorded and the minutes available as an Addendum to the RFP on the Township’s web site.”
These new addenda represent the largest public information disclosure since the RFP was issued fifteen months ago. Esquimalt staff have promised these documents will be posted on their municipal web site shortly. In the meantime, you can view them here:
I’m really happy with this outcome. By fulfilling its March 2011 commitment to release these documents online, the Township of Esquimalt is taking a small step towards demonstrating more transparency and accountability.