BC: Transit Police Audit Blog #1 - How SNC-Lavalin Outsmarted TransLink
Two weeks ago, the Transit Police released the Vancouver Police Department audit into their operations. The Transit Police tried to spin it as somehow validating their existence but that line flopped as they defended themselves over high overtime rates, the Sunday pay premium (first broken by the CTF here) and the fact that crime on transit dropped at only half the rate crime dropped everywhere else in the Lower Mainland.
The CTF was all over the media in the 48 hours after the audit was released (it should be noted that it was our Freedom of Information request earlier this spring that first asked for the report—we’re not certain the audit would have ever been released if we hadn’t asked for it).
Having had the time now to really digest and work through the audit, I am even more troubled by what has been revealed about Transit Police operations—and what they will do when the long-awaited SkyTrain fare gates finally come online. This week, our CTF blog will feature a five-part series looking at various aspects of the audit. Today is part one—How SNC-Lavalin Outsmarted TransLink on Police Deployment.
Not all SkyTrain lines in the Lower Mainland are created equal. While the Millennium and Expo lines are run by TransLink, the Canada Line is actually operated by InTransit BC, “a joint venture company equally owned by SNC-Lavalin (SNC), the Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec (CDPQ), and the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (bcIMC).” (source: ITBC about us page).
ITBC/Canada Line negotiated its own deal with TransLink when it came to transit police. Needless to say, the Canada Line folks took TransLink to the cleaners on this one—they are the only part of the transit service to have guaranteed minimum service levels. Terrified bus drivers can only dream of such a luxury!
On page 42 of the audit (Section 4.21), we read the following: “For deployment purposes, Waterfront Station, Burrard Station, Granville Station and Stadium-Chinatown Station all fall under the responsibility of the Canada Line team even though they are technically part of the Expo/Millennium Line. This explains why the afternoon shift is staffed by up to 12 Constables even though the RAV Concession Agreement with InTransitBC calls for a minimum of only six Constables on the Canada Line.”
On page 96, the VPD flag minimum police thresholds as a problem (section 5.45): “Typically, minimum patrol staffing levels are established to ensure a sufficient number of cover officers can maintain officer safety and to ensure a sufficient number of on-duty officers can effectively respond to major police emergencies. Minimum staffing callouts are difficult to justify in a context where the role of Transit Police remains supplemental and Transit Police typically has limited involvement in major police incidents. Even if a Transit Police officer requires assistance or a major incident occurs, jurisdictional police agencies can assist if necessary. This is reinforced by the fact that the Transit Police currently has no official minimum staffing policy for the Expo/Millennium Line.”
ITBC negotiated a contract that says a minimum of six transit police officers must be on the Canada Line at all times—that can be as much as 50 per cent of the available force (we’ve been told there are times when only 12 constables on patrol across the whole TransLink system. Indeed, page 68 of the review into the Stanley Cup riot indicates Transit Police deployment was beefed up to 20 officers). This means there are sometimes only three units—six officers travelling in pairs—in total on the Expo and Millennium lines.
If one of these officers makes an arrest, they often have to transport the suspect to the jurisdictional police detachment that put out the warrant for them. If that’s in Surrey, for example, the police have to leave the SkyTrain line and drive them there--even if they're in downtown Vancouver. There is no one extra to cover for that hole in the net. But the Canada Line will continue to have its six cops, meaning the Expo/Millennium lines are even more poorly served than normal.
This deployment threshold means, at times, Canada Line’s 20 stations (including the four Expo stations counted under the agreement) has as many cops as Expo/Millennium’s other 29 stations—and the Expo and Millennium lines are where the majority of crime occurs (see graph in 4.69). The 2010 Transit Police annual report notes that 15 per cent of SkyTrain stations are in Richmond (Canada Line), but only 7 per cent of incidents are; Surrey (Expo line) is the opposite—8 per cent of stations and 16 per cent of Transit Police incidents.
So a guaranteed minimum transit police officers are on the cozy Canada Line at any given time—to the detriment of public safety on the Millennium and Expo lines. And the older lines see their contingent of police drop whenever an officer is called off SkyTrain to transport a prisoner or testify in court or take a lunch break or for any other reason.
No wonder Transit Police overtime costs are sky-high!