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Oversight of Transit Police criticized

The police board overseeing TransLink's Transit Police Service is too heavily skewed to police rather than civilians, NDP critics say.

Four of the seven directors on the board are high-ranking officers – two from the RCMP and one each from the Vancouver and New Westminster police departments.

The non-police members are TransLink chief operating officer Ian Jarvis and businessmen Baj Puri and Peter Webster.

NDP MLAs Mike Farnworth and Jenny Kwan say stacking a municipal police board with police officers would normally violate B.C.'s Police Act.

"The current structure of the board is a major distortion from basic standards associated with the democratic governance of policing," they said in a letter to the Solicitor General and Attorney General.

Kevin Begg, the province's police services director, says the Transit Police is a special case because it's a new force that needed to establish new policies and procedures in a jurisdiction that overlaps with other police.

"We were starting from scratch," he said. "And we needed buy in from neighbouring forces."

Begg said a majority of the Transit Police board should be civilians sometime in 2008, when one of the officers will be replaced by a non-police director.

"Within the next year the balance of power on the board will be civilian," he said.

But Begg said the board will always need to have some police directors, likely representing the Vancouver Police Department and RCMP.

The police board's duties include appointing officers and setting goals, priorities, standards, guidelines and policies.

The board is also charged with overseeing complaints and preventing neglect and abuse by officers.

There are nearly 120 Transit Police officers on the rapidly growing force.

It's expected to expand further to more than 200 officers in time for the opening of the Canada Line in late 2009.

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