Tuesday, April 27, 2021

April 26 Council Meeting: Crime Stats, Mayor’s Gala Fallout, Reviewing the Delivery of Policing Services in Langley City

On Monday, Langley City Council addressed several RCMP matters. Council received an update about crime stats and initiatives of the RCMP by Acting Superintendent Mike Bhatti, who is the Officer in Charge of the Langley Detachment.

The following are interactive crime stats charts comparing Q1 2020 to Q1 2021.

Bhatti noted that overall crime is down in the City, but he acknowledged that mail theft is a growing concern. He also sits on Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group. The Task Group recently asked, and Council approved, City staff to investigate an incentive program to retrofit insecure mailboxes in multifamily housing to increase security and deter mail theft. Mail theft is a gateway to other serious crimes such as fraud.

Bhatti stated that the Detachment has been able to keep the number of front-line members at normal levels throughout the pandemic though there are resourcing concerns. New RCMP members come from Depot, which had reduced graduates over the last year due to the pandemic. This reduction means that there is a limited amount of people to fill vacant positions in the Detachment.

In the first quarter of 2020, Langely RCMP members responded to 207 calls where someone needed mental health services. They responded to 174 calls in the first quarter of 2021. The open question is, should the police be responding to mental health services calls?

When someone has a physical injury, we have provincially-funded paramedics who respond when you call 911. If someone needs mental health services in an emergency, should we not have provincially-funded mental health workers who answer the call?

Later in the meeting, City staff presented their findings on the Mayor’s Winter Gala. The gala occurred in January 2020. The gala was not an event approved by Langley City staff or Council.

Langley City’s internal investigation found that former Officer in Charge of the Langley Detachment Supterindentent Power sent an email “to his senior officers in order to encourage them to attend the Mayor’s Gala and that a 4-hour overtime shift would be approved to cover the costs of purchasing 2 tickets to the gala.”

The RCMP acknowledged that “$361.44 was charged against the City of Langley” to cover purchasing tickets to the gala. 1.23 hours of Langley City staff time was also used for the gala.

To get an answer to this simple question of cost, it took over a year. Without getting into the weeds, I perceived a lack of transparency and accountability from the RCMP. This matter could have been addressed quickly at the start of 2020 if Langley City staff was promptly able to get answers from the RCMP regarding costs.

Even with the recent information provided by the RCMP higher-ups, I am not convinced that we have the whole story. I posed the following motion, which Council supported:

THAT staff report back to Council with answers to the following question:

How much of the Mayor’s Gala overtime costs were allocated to the Township of Langley?

Why are there significant discrepancies between the Gill report and RCMP report on taxpayer costs, $8,100 compared to $361.44?

Why did it take over one year to receive a response from the RCMP?

Why was the former officer-in-charge of the Langley detachment, Superintendent Murray Power, reassigned?

The fallout from this event and on-ongoing revelations about systemic issues of racism and sexism in the RCMP over this last year has rocked my faith in the RCMP institution. RCMP Members at the Langley Detachment have shown willingness to work together with Council and the community. It is not about these members; it is about systemic issues within the RCMP.

Policing service costs in Langley City have grown faster than any other service we provide. It is our largest budgeted expense. Langley City council has limited control of the policing budget and priorities due to the complex contract between the federal government, province, and local governments. Langley City Council essentially “rubber-stamped” the policing budget.

Citizens and elected representatives are now demanding more transparency in how police services operate. Systemic racism is a real and ongoing issue within policing. Surveys show that people feel unsafe in Langley City.

I also put forward the following motion, which Council approved:

THAT staff including in the 2022 budget, a review of the policing service model for Langley City.

Is it time for Langley to have an independent police service, either shared with the Township or City-only?

As the Langley Detachment does not have a permanent Officer in Charge, Langley City Council asked the RCMP brass that Councillor Teri James and our CAO Francis Cheung be a part of the selection committee.

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