Randolf Richardson (Zhang Wen Dao)

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Richmond RCMP

Thursday, February 25, 2016 by Randolf Richardson 張文道

In January 2016 the Richmond City Council expressed more prominently their interest in replacing the RCMP with a municipal police force.  As a citizen of Richmond I find that the RCMP is providing a high quality of service (and alwyas has), and after considering the Richmond Police Services Review of 2016 I concluded that replacing the RCMP is unnecessary, and will be a waste of time, money, and resources.

In light of the fact that a more expensive muncipal police force is an unnecessary replacement for the RCMP, in particular I'm left wondering:  Why pay more?

Questionable Priorities

Hereunder are my responses to the major points of emphasis in the Richmond Police Services Review of 2016 that was made available in a series of public consultations (the last of which I attended on 2016-Feb-24 and engaged in informal debates with various proponents).  The following table lists the key priorities that were identified by the City of Richmond (left column) and my response (right column):

City Council's priorities Randolf Richardson's responses
Exercise influence over the police services budget This may be an attempt at micromanagement for the sake of "having more influence."  Given that City Council estimated that a municipal police force will initially incur an additional cost of $2.2 million to $3.9 million annually (in addition to the estimated cost of $19.6 million to transition to a new municipal police force), they are basically admitting that any influence they have over the budget will result in a more costly operation, which implicitly confirms that the RCMP is already more cost-effective with budgeting.
Influence key decisions such as setting service levels and priorities


Control over scheduling to meet service demands

This is obviously an attempt at micromanagement.  It's trivially obvious that all police forces should be controlling their own scheduling because it's a full-time effort that requires instant adaptation 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, where streamlined procedures and the minimal amount of bureaucracy is paramount.  For the City of Richmond to take over scheduling of these essential on-demand services (which includes instantanous responses to emergencies) would essentially duplicate what the RCMP is presently doing efficiently and effectively.

City Council has not indicated what specific scheduling problems exist at present (at least not that I'm aware of), and in my own experience the RCMP has always responded promptly on every occasion that I've called for assistance or to report a problem (which demonstrates to me that the RCMP does not have scheduling problems and is meeting service demands efficiently).

Control over recruitment and retention of officers The emphasis appears to include what seem to be discriminatory undertones of exclusion against Canadians who are not presently living in Richmond.  The fact that the RCMP recruits officers from all across Canada is an inclusive approach that adds to the diversity of every municipality who utilize the RCMP's services.  The arbitrary rejection of RCMP officers merely because they were recruited from elsewhere is an unacceptable negative attitude that ignores the obvious fact that most people prefer to live in the same city that they work in, and it may also conflict with Canadian Labour Laws.

An additional concern raised was that "the RCMP has a practice of retaining staff at detachments for a minimum of three to five years before transferring them" (note that the word "practice" was used instead of the word "policy").  The adage "familiarity breeds contempt" could have an important consequential meaning for this practice if it helps to reduce the potential for corruption.  The practice may also have the side-effect of keeping officers more alert naturally since adapting to a new environment requires one to be more aware of the unexpected (which also happens to be a normal part of policing).

City Council have contradicted themselves, however, because, after rejecting the RCMP's out-of-municipality hiring practice, they also claim that a future Richmond Police Chief will hire new and experienced police constables from outside of Richmond.

Hiring a Chief Constable The RCMP has a well-established chain-of-command that is integral for it to function rationally, consistently, and effectively.  To circumvent this with an arbitrary position could add unnecessary dysfunction to the RCMP's operations in Richmond, and such a circumvention is a hallmark of bad organizational management in my opinion.

A related concern I heard expressed in the media (on radio) is that City Council has difficulty communicating with the RCMP, but that seems ridiculous to me not only because one of the duties of every politician is to bridge any communications gaps that might exist between the various departments, but also because the RCMP is easy to communicate with in a variety of ways.  When I asked the Richmond RCMP about this they told me that they do have official liason roles internally who are specifically designated to communicating with elected municipal officials.

If City Council want to designate someone as an official liason to the RCMP and create a by-law that requires that the RCMP consult with them, then that might serve the purpose just as well since Richmond has gradually become a larger municipality, but I'm not convinced that this is even necessary.

Respond to local community needs such as values, vision, and mission Does City Council hope to change the role of the police?  The primary role of any police force is to uphold and enforce the law impartially, and in my various encounters with the RCMP I'm left with the impression that they are highly skilled professionals who invariably prefer to lead every scenario to the most peaceful, compassionate, and positive possible outcomes, which is something that every community needs.

As for the values, vision, and mission of the City of Richmond, these are generally beyond the scope of any police force, and are generally better-suited to public encouragement by politicians alongside the efforts of various community programs.  To expand the scope of policing to include political and community activism is a hallmark of bad managemnt in my opinion because it deviates from the important pre-emptive and reactive safety-oriented role that the police do have in the community.

Have a stable, experienced core of officers and staff with strong local knowledge of the community and its concerns This point doesn't apply to Richmond because the RCMP officers all seem to be stable and highly qualified as far as I can discern, and in addition to being knowledgeable about the local community (partly because many of them live in Richmond) they also have a variety of tools at their disposal to assist in navigating unfamiliar areas, communicating with people who don't speak the more common local languages, etc.

If any member of the community has concerns that are matters appropriate for the police, then contacting the RCMP is always an easy option (contact information is officially documented at http://richmond.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=980&languageId=1&contentId=-1, and elsewhere).

Additional perspective

I greatly appreciate that the City of Richmond engaged in the public consultation process, and that they strived for transparency in various ways, including by providing an estimate of the higher transitional and annual costs that would be incurred by replacing the RCMP with a municipal police force.  Transparency and openness are essential characteristics of any honest government, particularly in democracy-based societies, and I thank the Richmond City Council for regarding this as an important tradition.

Media coverage

Hereunder is a reverse-chronological list of related media coverage, which is provided for your convenience.

Links and Resources

If you'd like to contact me to share your perspective, I'd be delighted regardless of whether you agree with me.  My contact information is available on my contact page.

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