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Debate over regionalized policing in the Lower Mainland continues

The possibility of catching a serial killer like Robert Pickton sooner is one of the biggest arguments for regional policing across the Lower Mainland.

But the possibility of a single police force remains a divisive issue.

Now two new studies suggest amalgamation will only lead to higher costs and fewer officers.

At the Canadian Congress on Criminal Justice in downtown Vancouver, the regular faces came out to present familiar arguments both for and against regional policing in B.C.

“If there had there been a regional police force, that information would have been used and Pickton would have been apprehended in March 1997 instead of February 2002,” says Wally Oppal, Commissioner of the Missing Women’s Inquiry and former Attorney General.

“Why are we the only major center that does not have single force to better serve the citizens?” asks Kash Heed, former B.C. Solicitor General.

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So far the debates have been emotional, but surprisingly this is the first debate that has raised the question of research.

It turns out very little research has been done on the effectiveness of amalgamation.

But the two studies that have been done are damning; one done by researchers in Ottawa and another done by a professor in Victoria who looked at cases in the U.S., Abbotsford, and Halifax.

Both studies suggest that with amalgamation comes lower service levels; higher workloads for sworn officers; fewer sworn officers; and higher costs

The studies offer no proof that a regional force would be more efficient or even that crimes are more likely to be solved.

Halifax amalgamated three forces seventeen years ago after the province forced it on them   and there are still major issues.

“Sure there are problems, there still problems around communication, budgets, problems working with police commission,” says Dr. Veronica Singer of the Halifax Regional Police Service Victim Service Unit.

“I can tell you from an anecdotal point of view we do not have the best police service in B.C.,” says Heed.

But it’s clear many mayors are unready to buy into anecdotal ideals, and even after today, the debate is far from over.

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“The rhetoric of regionalization is not the panacea,” says Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts.

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