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B.C. MLAs recommend moving to new provincial police force

Committee wants mental health supports as part of 9-1-1
Surrey, home of Canada’s largest RCMP detachment, is transitioning to a city police force. (Surrey NowLeader)

B.C.’s patchwork of RCMP and municipal police forces should “transition to a new B.C. provincial police service,” amalgamating police services on a regional basis, an all-party committee of MLAs recommends.

After hundreds of submissions, the committee recommended a significant increase in mental health services, integrated into the province’s 9-1-1 emergency response system.

“Police have become the default first responders to mental health and other complex social issues due to a lack of alternatives and supports,” Peace River North MLA Dan Davies, deputy chair, said as the report was tabled in the B.C. legislature April 28. “Significant investments into a continuum of response, as well as increased co-ordination and integration across sectors, are needed.”

The committee also recommends a single civilian oversight system for police, and a “fair and equitable shared funding model for municipalities.” Currently B.C. has a police complaint commission, an independent investigator for police-involved deaths and injuries, and a system of funding for RCMP detachments based on the size of the community.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said his ministry is already working with police leadership, oversight bodies, mental health groups and Indigenous communities on the issues raised in the report. Consultation meetings will begin on the specific recommendations in late summer, he said.

“The committee’s recommendations to reform B.C.’s Police Act are based on extensive analysis and input and reflect today’s challenges, including addressing systemic racism, mental health, and harm reduction,” Farnworth said.

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