08/18/2012 09:57 EDT | Updated 10/18/2012 05:12 EDT

Scrap B.C. Transit Police, Says Taxpayers' Group


The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling for the Transit Police force to be scrapped after documents reveal legal fees for the force have skyrocketed in recent years.

According to a Freedom of Information request, the force paid $8,000 for legal advice for Transit Police officers in 2008. That number nearly doubled in 2009, and jumped to $300,000 in 2011.

Transit Police say legal fees have increased in part due to changes in the Police Act.

But Canadian Taxpayers Federation spokesperson Jordan Bateman says those numbers raise questions about the need for the force.

"By having them with badges, by having them with guns and having them as sworn police officers, you open yourself up to these Police Act investigations," he said.

"You kind of increase the amount of scrutiny, the amount of money that has to be spent in indemnification, and that’s really the core here. We’re over-policing the SkyTrain with this redundant force and now we’re being forced to pay for the legal fees that go along with it."

'Open and accountable'

Transit Police spokesperson Anne Drennan says the high fees in 2011 are due in part to an inquiry into an officer who hit a fare evader with a stun gun.

But she says the increase in legal fees due to changes in the Police Act is necessary.

"This is a cost that ensures confidence in the public, in their police. This is a police act that provides for transparency and accountability," she said.

"The fact that we have a part of our budget that goes to legal costs … is something that while it is unfortunate — we realize it's a part of doing business as a police department that is open and accountable."

This year, Transit Police have already spent $149,000 in legal fees. Drennan says it’s too early to predict the final tally for 2012, but she hopes the numbers won’t continue to rise.

Transit Police monitor the public transportation system in the greater Vancouver area, watching for fare evaders and keeping the peace.