Maple Ridge council inks new deal with RCMP

Increased accountability with police ‘already exists.’

Maple Ridge has a new deal with the RCMP that’s supposed to improve communication, allow greater input and control costs.

Council OK’d the municipal police unit agreement at its Monday meeting and will review the deal at a later evening meeting.

But many of the aspects of the new contract already exist in Maple Ridge, finance general manager Paul Gill said later, a point supported by Coun. Cheryl Ashlie.

“They don’t operate in a vacuum in our community at all. They’re very approachable,” Ashlie said Tuesday.

RCMP officers sit on social planning advisory committee and the substance misuse prevention committee, the seniors network and the community network, she pointed out.

That allows police to talk directly to people dealing with various social issues.

“We do have a model of practice with the RCMP in Maple Ridge that I think is enviable,” Ashlie said.

Ridge Meadows RCMP also sit on a joint committee involving the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows mayors, while commanding officer Supt. Dave Walsh led the strategic planning session that defined priorities for Maple Ridge.

Ashlie said when she heard reports while negotiations were ongoing, many of the features were already present in Maple Ridge’s relationship with the RCMP.

Gill was an observer on the contract negotiating committee that hammered out the deals over the last few years and pointed out RCMP commanding officers regularly brief council and present their business plans.

He, along with the Langley city and Surrey mayors, will also be on a contract-management committee that will ensure the implementation of the new contract.

“That is absolutely critical to making sure the contract is working as it’s supposed to.”

Currently, Maple Ridge pays $17.6 million yearly for its police service, the largest single chunk of its budget.

Some of the features of the 20-year deal, which will be reviewed every five years, include giving cities input into setting police priorities, along with reports from commanding officers about how they’re being carried out. Cities will also have input on who should be the commanding officer for their detachments.

There’s also a new dispute-resolution system to allow cities to air their grievances, while cities can even do independent reviews of police programs and individual detachments.

When it comes to finance, the officer in charge will provide multi-year plans and regular reports on those. Municipal councils also will receive early notification of any changes that will cost money.

A few years ago, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows had to pay for required upgrades to its holding cells, on short notice by the RCMP.

Gill pointed out the new contract was able to avoid any further responsibilities passed on from the federal government. “The fact that we were able to resist pressure to resist downloading was a significant achievement,” he said.

Maple Ridge could even save some of the $2 million it pays yearly for its share of the regional teams. Currently, Maple Ridge pays 90 per cent of its share of the costs for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team. But starting this month, that drops to 70 per cent, with Ottawa picking up 30 per cent, producing a $400,000 savings.

That money, however, will soon be gobbled up, by retroactive wage increases for officers, as well as the cost of the new RCMP headquarters in Surrey.

Ashlie pointed out the new  Independent Investigations Office, now being set up, will look at police-related incidents that result in severe injury or death.

The current RCMP contract expires at the end of March. Under the new deal, cities can bail from the agreement if they give two years notice.

Ashlie said she’d also support reviewing of RCMP pensions, another significant cost.

The municipal policing unit agreement is actually an agreement between Maple Ridge and the province for RCMP services. Two other agreements set out the general relationship for the RCMP between the provinces and the federal government.

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