VANCOUVER - The final report into the failures that allowed Robert Pickton to remain at large for so long has revived a decades-old debate about whether there should be a regional police department in the Vancouver area, one of the only major cities in Canada not protected by a single, unified force.

But any debate about amalgamating Lower Mainland police departments will likely run into old divisions between the region's mayors, some of whom have actively resisted any suggestion of creating a single force under any circumstance.

Commissioner Wally Oppal released a report this week that examined years of police failures that delayed Pickton's arrest as the serial killer found more victims. While Oppal concluded systemic bias against sex workers was a key factor in those failures, he also said the fact that Pickton was picking up sex workers and murdering them in two separate cities, each with their own police force, played a significant role.

Oppal recommended the B.C. government oversee the creation of a regional force, saying only a single department could address the poor collaboration and the rivalries between the Vancouver police and the RCMP in Port Coquitlam, where Pickton lived, that hampered the Pickton investigation.

B.C.'s justice minister, Shirley Bond, said she's open to discussing the idea, particularly as the province drafts a new, 10-year policing plan, but added little else to the debate. When asked whether she has a preference when it comes to regionalization, she didn't say.

Mayor Lois Jackson of Delta, a community of about 100,000 people south of Vancouver that has its own municipal force, was more direct.

"Totally opposed," Jackson said in an interview Tuesday.

"I hate to say we're better, but we certainly have put together the things we want to achieve in our community."

The 2.3 million residents in greater Vancouver are currently policed by a patchwork of municipal forces and local detachments of the RCMP.

Delta, Abbotsford, New Westminster, Port Moody and West Vancouver each have their own municipal forces, while the rest of the region's communities, including large cities such as Surrey, have local policing contracts with the RCMP. A collection of integrated teams provide specialized services related to gangs, murders and traffic forensics to some, but not all, municipalities.

The provincial government and municipalities that use the RCMP recently signed a new 20-year agreement with the RCMP, but the contract included an opt-out clause.

Arguments from politicians opposed to a regional force range from the potential cost to concerns that they would have less control over a regional force and few ways to keep it accountable. Opponents also point to the move towards integrated units, which they say solve the same problems that a regional force would.

Jackson said officers on a local municipal department develop a knowledge of the community that is lost within a massive regional force. She also rejected the suggestion that the jurisdictional problems that plagued the Pickton investigation could ever happen in her community, insisting that there is co-operation between Delta police and neighbouring departments, such as the RCMP in Surrey, all the time.

"Our police guys, they know what's going on in Delta, because they're here and they know the community, and regional police can't do that," she said.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, on the other hand, issued a statement shortly after the release of Oppal's report that called on the province to "quickly commit to establishing a Metro Vancouver police force."

The head of the city's police force, Chief Jim Chu, declined to wade into the debate Tuesday.

"If we were to design the ideal policing structure for the greater Vancouver region, I don't think we would design what we have now," Chu told a news conference.

"But it's our role as Vancouver police officers to work the best we can within the existing structure. ... I think it's up to the political leaders to make some decisions."

Recent discontentment with the new RCMP contract could at least jump-start that debate. Cities such as Burnaby and Richmond have said they are unhappy with the terms of the RCMP contract and are looking at their options.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said city council is currently examining an independent municipal force as a possible alternative, but he said the city would look at the possibility of a regional force if it's debated.

"Traditionally, we've been fairly resistant to it," Brodie said in an interview.

"However, a number of our councillors have expressed a real interest in a regional force, so we're looking at the Oppal report and the provincial response to it, and we'll be measuring that option to see if it can provide some of the answers for us."

Paul McKenna, who teaches at Halifax's Dalhousie University and worked for Ontario's solicitor general in the 1990s when that province overhauled its policing system, said regional policing is becoming the accepted model in North American precisely for the reasons that Oppal outlined.

Toronto's metropolitan police force was created decades ago, long before the cities that make up the greater Toronto area amalgamated.

Many forces in Ontario were regionalized in the 1960s and '70s and have each grown to encompass more communities over time, he noted. In Halifax, the creation of the Halifax Regional Municipality prompted politicians there to amalgamate police forces. The area now is policed jointly by the local police and the RCMP, which operate out of the same building.

McKenna said a regional force in Vancouver would also make it easier to implement the recommendations in Oppal's report that deal specifically with policing.

"If you look at all of the recommendations, all the main themes that are touched on, if you had to inject those into separate police organizations, it's going to be much more difficult, require much more co-ordination and require more political will," McKenna said in an interview.

"You simplify the process; you can make it far more accountable. These are the benefits of regionalization."

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  • Sereena Abotsway

    Born Aug. 20, 1971, Abotsway suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and lived with a foster family most of her life. She was 29 when she was last seen in August 2001. Robert Pickton was convicted of her murder in 2007.

  • Georgina Papin

    Born March 11, 1964, Papin had seven children. She was last seen in March 1999. Robert Pickton was convicted of her murder in 2007.

  • Mona Wilson

    Born Jan. 13, 1975, Wilson had a son. She was last seen in November 2001. Robert Pickton was convicted of her murder in 2007.

  • Marnie Frey

    Born Aug. 30, 1973 in Campbell River, B.C. Her daughter, Brittney, was born five years before she disappeared and gave an impact statement at Pickton's trial. Frey was last seen in August 1997. Robert Pickton was convicted of her murder in 2007.

  • Brenda Wolfe

    Born Oct. 20, 1968, Wolfe had a son. She was last seen in February 1999. Robert Pickton was convicted of her murder in 2007.

  • Andrea Joesbury

    Born Nov. 6, 1978, in Victoria. Joesbury had a daughter. She was last seen in June 2001. Robert Pickton was convicted of her murder in 2007.

  • Cara Ellis

    Known on the street as Nicky Trimble, Ellis was born April 13, 1971 and was last seen in January 1997. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Andrea Borhaven

    Born Jan. 19, 1972 in Armstrong, B.C. Borhaven was reported missing to police on May 18, 1999, but was last seen in 1997. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Kerry Koski

    Born Aug. 14, 1959, Koski had three daughters. She was last seen Jan. 7, 1998. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Wendy Crawford

    Born April 21, 1956, Crawford had a son and a daughter. She was last seen in December 1999. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Debra Jones

    Born in 1957, she was last seen in December 2000. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Tiffany Drew

    Born Jan. 31, 1975, Drew had three children. She was last seen March 2000. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Sarah DeVries

    Born May 12, 1969, to a troubled mother and adopted at 11 months. De Vries' journals and poetry have been widely published since she was last seen April 21, 1998. Her sister, Maggie de Vries, wrote about her sister in the award-winning book Missing Sarah. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Cynthia (Cindy) Feliks

    Born Dec. 12, 1954 in Detroit, Feliks was a mother and grandmother. She was last seen in December 1997. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Angela Jardine

    Born Dec. 12, 1954 in Detroit, Feliks was a mother and grandmother. She was last seen in December 1997. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Diana Melnick

    Born Aug. 26, 1975, Melnick was last seen Dec. 27, 1995. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Jacqueline McDonnell

    Born June 6, 1976, McDonell had a daughter. She was last seen Jan. 16, 1999. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Dianne Rock

    Born Sept. 2, 1967, Rock had five children. She was last seen in October 2001. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Heather Bottomley

    Born Aug. 17, 1976, Bottomley had two children. She was last seen April 2001. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Jennifer Furminger

    Born Oct. 22, 1971, Furminger grew up in St. Catharine's, Ont. She had a son and police say she was last seen in December 1999. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Helen Hallmark

    Born June 24, 1966, Hallmark had a daughter. She was last seen June 15, 1997. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Patricia Johnson

    Born Dec. 2, 1975. Johnson had a son and a daughter, and was last seen March 2001. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Heather Chinnock

    Born Nov. 10, 1970 in Denver, Colo. She had two children. She was last seen April 2001. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Tanya Holyk

    Born Dec. 8. 1975, Holyk had a son. She was last Oct. 29, 1996. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Sherry Irving

    Born March 19, 1973, Irving was last seen in April 1997. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Inga Hall

    Born in 1952 in Germany, Hall had two daughters and two granddaughters. She was last seen in February 1998. Robert Pickton was charged with her murder but the charge was stayed in 2010.

  • Nancy Clark

    Born July 29, 1966, Clark was last seen Aug. 22, 1991 and reported missing to Victoria police the following day. Her DNA was found on Robert Pickton's farm but no charge was ever laid in her case.

  • Stephanie Lane

    Born May 28, 1976, Lane grew up in Vancouver. She was 20 years old and had recently given birth to her only son when she disappeared from the Downtown Eastside in January of 1997. Her DNA was found on Robert Pickton's farm but there was never any charge in her case.

  • Dawn Crey

    Born Oct. 26, 1958, Crey was a member of the Sto:lo First Nation near Chilliwack, B.C., and had a son. She was last seen in November of 2000. Her DNA was found on Robert Pickton's farm but no charge was ever laid in her case.

  • Jacqueline Murdock

    Born Jan. 28, 1971, Murdock was the youngest daughter of a large First Nation family in Fort St. James. She had four children. She was last seen on Aug. 13, 1997. Her DNA was found on Robert Pickton's farm but no charge was ever laid in her case.

  • Sharon Abraham

    Last seen in 2000. Her DNA was found on Robert Pickton's farm but no charge was ever laid in her case.

  • Yvonne Boen

    Born Nov. 30, 1967, Boen had a son. She was last seen in March of 2001. Her DNA was found on Robert Pickton's farm but no charge was ever laid in her case.