Why no public appeal before community policing shut down?
As a former City of Duncan councillor from 1996 to 2018, I was aware of the good works done through the North Cowichan Duncan RCMP Community Policing Programs. I was a strong advocate when Inspector Robinson pitched the idea of a civilian coordinator position for the community policing programs in 2003-05. I was also the city appointee to the CVRD Safety Advisory Commission for a time and liaison to the CPAC Society.
The various inspectors provided quarterly updates in their reports to mayor and council about the great work the volunteers were doing to assist in the delivery of the crime prevention programs and the many innovative and new programs that benefited the citizens, businesses and community over the years. I had the opportunity to accompany Manager Carol-Ann Rolls and the volunteers on public education campaigns such as “We want to see more of you” pedestrian awareness, distracted driving walk course, block watch presentation and at many community events like the electric scooter safety training and subsequent races.
I was dismayed to recently learn through Mayor Siebring’s [North Cowichan] council report that the CP Society opted to dissolve and that the CVRD had tendered an Expression of Interest for a society to assume responsibility for the programs. The one employee was terminated as a result. The volunteers and programs ceased to operate in March and reasons were cited as COVID-related. Sadly, neither the community nor the volunteers were made aware of this until it was too late. There was no public appeal to my knowledge. Those programs and services were paid for by a service agreement funded by North Cowichan, Duncan and Cowichan Bay tax payers.
Do we not deserve an explanation? Even more important to me, is the answer to this. Where are the funds particular to the programs being dispersed? Are they being returned to the CVRD? Taxpayers have paid approximately $122,000 for a service that was not provided. Additionally, annual surplus funds were held in the bank for future use. Oh and while we are at it, who has the truck? Where the community policing programs end up, or if they will be revived is uncertain and depends on the response to the Expressions of Interest. I have heard a rumour that South Cowichan Community Policing- funded by Mill Bay, Shawnigan Lake and Cobble Hill is the front runner. Personally I do not think that is the best option for the City of Duncan and North Cowichan especially.
As it is, “community” policing programs, the ownership and control of the programs and services should remain with the citizens that funded the service. Questions need to be publicly asked and answered. Personnel issues aside, this should have come before councils and community for awareness and input. We will all have been without the full programs and services for a year before a new society is approved by the CVRD. I hope it’s not a matter of out of sight, out of mind.
Carol-Ann Rolls, the volunteers and the programs had and still have the support of the community and yet the community has been left out of the process. Who will answer to this?