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Time to Stop Vancouver Police Turf Wars (and Save Money)

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As regional mayors and the B.C. government consider giving TransLink up to two dozen new taxation tools, it is becoming clear that there are problems within the transit authority. Whistleblowers and media have pointed out concerns about nepotism, security, U-passes, safety, communications, fare evasion, polling, superfluous studies, and other wastes of tax dollars.

Add TransLink's Transit Police to the list of concerns, says an Edmonton Police report which looked at possible transit security models for the Alberta system to emulate.

"[TransLink's] type of arrangement has resulted in much confusion and inefficiencies," said the report, which was written by a senior officer. "This type of police service designation will not likely ever be repeated in [B.C.]."

The officer noted that "negotiation" must happen between transit officers and local police over who takes the lead on incidents that occur on or near SkyTrain. The acrimony that often results means "some police departments don't want any involvement by the Transit Police. There are times when [local detachments] will refuse to take the call because of the existence of a Transit Police group."

In other words, if someone gets mugged on SkyTrain, the Transit Police either waste a bunch of time arguing with the local police over who gets to investigate, or the local police just won't show up at all.

TransLink police officers aren't happy, says the report: "When you put fully trained police officers in a transit environment, and restrict their work to transit properties, they realize fairly quickly that transit crime and disorder work is not that interesting... [resulting] in members looking outside of their designated work areas to expand their policing experience." This leads to even more conflict with local RCMP and city police detachments.

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) has recently finished its own audit of the Transit Police. A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) for the audit has been delayed -- the report is still in its "draft" form and due to be presented to the Transit Police Board next month. The public, who pays for the police and the audit, isn't allowed to see it yet.

But if the VPD audit is anything like the Edmonton view of the TransLink Transit Police, it will be a harsh reality check for a police force that cost taxpayers $27.2 million in 2010 and will grow 28 per cent to $34.9 million by 2014.

Another CTF FOI request revealed that Transit Police officers are paid a 25 per cent bonus for working Sundays. This Sunday premium has cost taxpayers $1.4 million over five years, and is not something RCMP officers receive. Transit Police have fatter pay cheques than their RCMP or VPD counterparts -- making at least $75,000 each annually. Of 177 transit cops, 66 made more than $100,000 in 2010.

The Transit Police should be disbanded and local police forces should be given back full jurisdiction over SkyTrain lines in their community. With fare gates coming, the number of Transit Police files, 63 per cent of which are simply writing violation tickets, should drop dramatically.

Younger officers would be absorbed by forces across the Lower Mainland, and older officers -- many of whom are double-dipping by collecting pensions from other forces -- could go back into retirement.

Before TransLink is given any more access to our tax dollars, they must clean up their own shop first -- and they should start with the failed Transit Police experiment.