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To Regionalize Or Not To Regionalize? A Study In The Politics Of Policing In Greater Vancouver

2733 words - 11 pages

INTRODUCTIONPolice regionalization is a recurring theme in British Columbia (BC). The Oppal Report (1994) notes 'at least seven studies' had been conducted in the fifteen years preceding its publication and four of these had addressed directly the specific issue of police regionalization in Greater Vancouver (British Columbia Police Commission 1978; de Haas 1980; Leighton 1988; Police Services 1990). However, despite generally favourable findings the political will to create a Greater Vancouver Police Department has not been forthcoming. In considering why this is the case the political nature of decisions to amalgamate police agencies in Greater Vancouver into a metropolitan style police service is stressed. As was noted in the report of a police officers' working group on regionalization of police departments,a decision on regional policing would be more dependent upon the political acceptability of the concept than upon a rational evaluation of the pros and cons (Police Services 1990, Appendix G, p.2).This is not to say that there aren't valid technical and administrative considerations, such as cost, accountability and efficiency. However, the decision to regionalize police services, or not, is ultimately dependent upon what Lustgarten (1986) refers to as 'political choices' and this is most evident within the Greater Vancouver context.The paper is structured in two sections. The first section describes the current policing arrangements in Greater Vancouver. These are considered in comparison to a selection of other Canadian cities and to policing arrangements in Greater Manchester, in the UK. Although the focus of the paper is on regionalization in Greater Vancouver it is also, at least in part, a comparative study in the sense that a primary motivation for writing the paper is the extent to which policing arrangements in BC vary from my own experiences of those in the UK . It is not a systematic comparative study but references are made to other metropolitan areas in Canada and the UK to provide comparable contexts. As Bayley (1999) notes, included in the benefits of comparing policing arrangements from different parts of the world is the way knowledge of alternative possibilities opens our minds to the consideration that, 'what we are most familiar with, is not necessarily the best way of doing it'. Furthermore, we learn about ourselves from the study of others in that it "provides a mirror in which we can see ourselves reflected against the backdrop of others" (p.11). As such, the paper is concerned as much with police regionalization in general, as it is with providing a definitive answer in favour of, or against, the amalgamation of police departments in Greater Vancouver.The second section examines debates concerning police regionalization in Canada and, in particular, the relatively reserved approach adopted by the BC government. The paper draws upon Oppal's (1994) distinction between regionalization, which involves the complete...

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