The cost of policing is going up again this year, leaving Whistler with the tough decision of chipping in or opting out of specialized services.
Council’s concern about the increased costs came to the surface at a recent meeting with top RCMP personnel.
Whistler, like other communities in the Lower Mainland District, is being asked to contribute over and above its regular policing costs to access five integrated services, which are specialized teams of officers trained in their particular fields. Those five services are: the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT), Police Dog Services, Forensic Identification Services, the Emergency Response Team (ERT) and Traffic Services.
“The district and I have taken a position that these are things that we should be participating in,” said Sea to Sky Regional Police Services Insp. Norm McPhail.
While council recognizes the advantages to integrating services, it remains concerned about the increased costs on its already-strapped budget.
“I think their approach makes a lot of sense,” said Councillor Bob Lorriman, after the meeting. “I think we as the consumers, if you will, will get a better product at a better price. But the problem is, we as a community of Whistler don’t really need those services.”
RCMP Assistant Commander Peter German likened the payments to an insurance policy. By kicking in for the services, Whistler will have them at hand should anything, such as a homicide, happen. The alternative is to pay out more money if and when an event occurs.
“It’s an insurance policy for the community,” explained German.
“We recognize that policing is expensive… I don’t know how better we can deliver this service.”
The exact cost for the increased integrated services is not clear due to ongoing negotiations between the RCMP and municipal staff but it is somewhere in the realm of $250,000. That’s in addition to the $2.9 million Whistler spends every year on regular RCMP services.
“We don’t have murders up here,” said Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, after the meeting. “We’ve had three in 40 years so I don’t know that we need IHIT. We don’t have protected witnesses traveling through our town to go to court, so I don’t know that we need ERT. Maybe we can make do with what we have without having to buy any of these additional integrated services.
“It’s a pretty expensive insurance policy…. If we have one murder every 20 years, do we really want to be spending a quarter of a million dollars a year for the investigation costs for that murder? I don’t know.”