Abbotsford police chief favours regionalization

Bob Rich says he can envision three regional forces, including one for the Fraser Valley.

Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich

Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich

Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich has come out in favour of regional policing in the Lower Mainland, saying he believes it would be more effective in fighting crime and keeping communities safe.

Rich attended a forum last Wednesday in Delta, where the issue of a regional force for Metro Vancouver was debated.

“I am very much in favour of regional policing …” he told members of the Abbotsford Police Board on Tuesday, while updating them on his presence at the forum.

Later, speaking to The News, Rich said he believes a regional force that covers several boundaries would provide “more cohesive” policing.

He said in addition to a Metro Vancouver force, he envisions one for Metro Victoria and one covering the Fraser Valley.

“(The Fraser Valley) is a growing area and so the question we should be asking is where should we be in 10 years?”

Rich said one of the problems with the current system is that police agencies in each community might have different strategies for dealing with particular issues – for example, gang violence or chronic offenders.

But these problems, and the people involved in them, are not confined to one community, and Rich said having a common approach would be  more effective in reducing these issues.

“We will do better if we organize policing around the patterns that communities are actually living in,” he said.

Opponents of regional policing say that under such a model, police will lose connections to their communities.

Rich said he believes questions about regionalization should address not only policing, but government services as a whole.

Regional policing was one of 63 recommendations made by commissioner Wally Oppal in December at the conclusion of the Missing Women Inquiry.

Oppal blamed a lack of cooperation between police forces as the reason serial killer Robert Pickton was able to kidnap and murder so many women.

Any decision on regional policing will be made by government, not by police agencies.