Workshop examines positive and negative of RCMP

As the RCMP’s 20-year contract with the province of British Columbia comes up for renewal, the BC Civil Liberties Association has been holding meetings across the Peace River region to speak with residents.

On Friday, the Association was in Fort St. John holding a community workshop.

The organization is trying to re-establish its community contacts and offer aid on civil liberties issues across the province, says David Eby, executive director of the Association.

Eby says the workshop was held to discuss benefits and problems with the RCMP in different communities, adding that there have been several high-profile incidents involving the RCMP across the province.

The new 20-year contract between the province and the RCMP would begin in 2012 and he says the organization wanted to find out what the public thinks about how the force is performing in their communities.

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One of the biggest reasons the Association is having discussions with residents in the Peace River Region is due to reports of how the RCMP have handled investigations – including allegations of police intimidation – into the Encana pipeline bombings around Tomslake, he says.

There were also specific reports from Prince George and allegations involving specific members and Eby says the association wanted to find out if the incidents were isolated or part of a larger trend across the province.

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Part of the workshop looks at specific programs that community residents like and should potentially be implemented across the province or into the contract negotiations. The other part looks at anything the public may not like involving RCMP policies or specific incidents.

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Two of the biggest concerns that Eby says the association has heard from community members is regarding how the RCMP question witnesses, as well as alleged racial profiling of aboriginals.

One participant at the workshop applauded the positive ticketing campaign in Fort St. John, adding that officers on bicycles seem to be more approachable and friendly.

However, one concern that was brought up by participants was the fact that many of the officers at the detachment are fairly young and that the detachment has a high turnover rate, with officers staying only a few years before being transferred elsewhere.

He says the information will be compiled into a report for the Province’s Solicitor General in charge of policing and to the RCMP, which he hopes will help influence the contract negotiations.

Although Eby says the workshops and discussions with community members won’t necessarily influence whether the contract gets signed, it may affect the contract length.

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Municipalities with over 5,000 residents have to agree to have the RCMP police force or they can choose to have their own municipal police force.

Approximately 80 per cent of the province is policed by the RCMP. However, there are only 11 municipalities with their own police forces, including Vancouver, North Vancouver, and Nelson.

The report on policing in BC from the Association should be available by the end of September.

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