A debate over how to fund more officers for the Langley RCMP turned into a discussion of whether the Township should go its own way and separate itself from the detachment it shares with Langley City on Monday afternoon.
Langley Township council was debating a suggested by Councillor Eric Woodward to add 10 more officers, starting in October this year, by using funding from the RCMP capital project fund.
Supt. Murray Power, head of the Langley detachment which polices both Langley City and Township, had asked for 15 more officers just before budget discussions kicked off. Power said rapid population growth has thrown the “cop to pop” ratio – the ratio of RCMP officers to population – out of whack.
A decade ago, there was one RCMP officer for every 800 people in the Township. The “cop to pop” is now closer to one to 900, and Power warned it could cause issues as the ratio increases.
Adding 10 new officers in October and continuing to add three a year for the next four years would keep the “cop to pop” ratio at under 900, said Karen Sinclair, the Township’s director of finance.
But Coun. Steve Ferguson worried that officers are dealing with different issues when they’re in the City than in the Township.
“Policing has changed significantly,” Ferguson said.
He said officers are undertaking different tasks in the City than in the Township, with its higher concentration of the community’s homeless.
He also claimed the City isn’t adding more officers.
Mayor Jack Froese noted that the Township is growing much, much faster than the City – in the last Canadian census, the Township had added 12,000 new residents, while the City had added about 800.
Coun. Bob Long questioned if there’s room for the new officers. “Where are they going to work?”
He also asked about what the reserves had been intended for, such as expanding the main detachment building in Murrayville.
The money could have been used for building or for acquiring the “other partner’s” interest in the main detachment, said Township administrator Mark Bakken. The other partner is Langley City.
That led Coun. Kim Richter to ask how much it would cost to “buy out” Langley City.
Bakken said a rough estimate would be between $5 and $7 million.
Richter then wanted to know if, in a system with two RCMP detachments, Township officers would have to respond to calls in the City, or if the Township could charge the City for calls answered by Township officers.
Mayor Jack Froese acknowledged that there might be a discussion to be had about the separation of the Township and City RCMP, but that it could be held later, not during a budget meeting.
The status of the shared RCMP detachment has occasionally been a flashpoint of disagreement between the City and Township in the past. The City, more urbanized, typically has a higher number of calls for service than the Township.
Township councillors have sometimes sparred with the City over whether each community is paying its fair share for local policing.
In a meeting earlier this year, Power noted that officers paid for by the Township are assigned to patrol areas in the Township, but that when there is a major call, such as for a shooting, officers head to the site from City or Township, regardless.