Currently, Langley Township and Langley City are served by the same RCMP detachment.
But after the officer-in-charge (OIC), Supt. Murray Power, was reassigned in the wake of a Langley City Council controversy, a Township councillor thinks it’s time to look into having separate detachments.
Councillor Eric Woodward made the proposal at the Monday, Sept. 21 evening meeting of Township council.
“We’ve lost our superintendent, based on what’s going on in Langley City,” Woodward commented.
Power was reassigned after reports came out about his involvement in the Jan. 25 “Winter Wonderland” fundraising gala, organized by City mayor Val van den Broek, that raised $56,000 for the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation.
In an e-mail message encouraging detachment members to attend the event, Power pointed out that a four-hour overtime shift would be enough to cover costs of two people attending.
An independent review ordered by the City found that while RCMP officers were not directly paid overtime to attend the event, the remarks had created confusion.
A follow-up report has been ordered.
RCMP E-Division headquarters has declined to give reasons for Power’s reassignment.
Saying the OIC shouldn’t serve “two masters,” Woodward proposed that the Township should investigate the cost of having separate RCMP detachments serving the Township and City compared to the expense of the current arrangement, where both Langleys share policing.
Woodward’s written notice of motion to council argued having an RCMP detachment that is solely responsible to the Township “would ensure that issues within and unique to the Township of Langley take first priority, and that all law enforcement resources and management attention would be dedicated only to Township of Langley residents, businesses and issues, not those within another municipality.”
Woodward noted the Township is growing much faster than the City, and the cost sharing agreement between the two municipalities includes “terms for the eventual separation of the services of the RCMP for the Township of Langley and the City of Langley if reasonable and appropriate to do so.”
Woodward wanted staff to prepare a report in time for 2021 budget deliberations, outlining the costs associated with “terminating” the agreement.
“I’m frustrated, Woodward said.
“I think we lost a good superintendent.”
Reaction from other members of council ranged from cautious interest to opposition.
Coun. Bob Long called the proposal “incredibly opportunistic.”
“This is not something council should be weighing in on,” Long declared, predicting news that the Township was looking into a potential split could create consternation in the community.
Instead, Long suggested council should have a workshop to learn how the police sharing arrangement actually works.
Coun. Blair Whitmarsh urged caution.
“We have an incident that has occurred and we don;t know much about it,” Whitmarsh warned.
Before Township council takes the step of ordering a report on the financial costs of separation,Whitmarsh said there should be a “philosophical” look at the issue, to decide whether it is a priority.
“This is a big ask and a big task,” Whitmarsh commented.
Coun. Kim Richter called it a “timely” proposal worth looking into.
Councillor David Davis noted the Township would be raising the prospect of splitting the police at a time when it was also trying to convince the City to share revenue from the Cascades casino.
Describing the idea of separate detachments as a “huge thing,” Davis said “I don’t feel I have enough information.”
Couns Petrina Arnason and Margaret Kunst also favoured a workshop, with Arnason saying the Township should be aware of the “economic consequences” of a split and Kunst cautioning that the Township relationship with the City was “very important.”
A majority of council voted to refer the matter to a priorities meeting in November, to decide if such a report should be prepared.
Mayor Jack Froese said his understanding of the situation is that Power was “reassigned temporarily” and the Township doesn’t know if he will be “assigned back” to Langley.
“I have not received an official word on the reasons why,” Froese told council.
Froese said the suggestions the reassignment was connected to the City mayor’s gala controversy was “buying into the media.”