BC: TransLink Top Cop Response Debunked
To the surprise of no one, TransLink’s top cop rushed in this week with an op/ed piece attempting to refute our call for the expensive agency to be scrapped.
What was surprising was how quickly Neil Dubord threw his old Edmonton police colleagues under the proverbial bus—pooh-poohing the report we based our story on. If Dubord is right, Edmonton taxpayers must be left wondering what kind of information is collected when their police commission has to make a big decision.
Let’s dissect the Chief’s comments for a moment (and a thank-you to the many whistleblowers who called and emailed me with their thoughts on the two op/ed pieces. I’m sure you’ll see lots of your points in this blog post. I appreciate your help.).
Dubord says: “Bateman based his comments on a report by Acting Superintendent Garry Meads of the Edmonton Police Service. This report was never meant to assess and judge the existence of Transit Police within TransLink, as Bateman has naively done, taking the report and its contents completely out of context in the process. At the time that this report was completed, I was a deputy chief in the Edmonton Police Service and have a full, firsthand understanding of the intention behind this report and how it related to special constables working for the City of Edmonton. The research that went into this report was anecdotal, far from authoritative, and completed at a very high level in an effort to support the business case regarding bylaw officers in the City of Edmonton. It was not intended to assess whether Transit Police is a viable organization within Metro Vancouver. The information contained within the report was, at times, incorrect; Transit Police are not restricted to transit properties, and there is a security unit attached to the Coast Mountain Bus Company.”
We say: It’s surprising that he would criticize the Edmonton report - especially since it was written by one of his former coworkers. What a waste of Edmonton tax dollars and Superintendent Meads’s time to send him all around the country, talking to various stakeholders, and producing a report that his former colleague calls “anecdotal,” “far from authoritative,” and “incorrect.” Fortunately, we’re a national organization, and I’m certain this will be of interest to our Alberta director—Dubord says Edmonton taxpayers spent big bucks on a flawed report. Of course, I believe that’s just spin: if the TransLink police system worked, Meads would have heard and seen that, and he would have recommended it as an option in his report.
Dubord says: “In 2010 Transit Police investigated: 57 per cent of all transit-related violent crime; 67 per cent of all transit-related property crime; 92 per cent of all transit-related drug offences; and 72 per cent of all other transit-related crime.”
We say: Yes, of course crime occurs at transit properties. But if this police force is so successful, why aren’t they investigating 100% of all these crimes? Clearly, jurisdictional police are still a big factor.
Dubord says: “We are currently working within a zero-growth budget framework, and are under budget for the fourth year running.”
We say: Then why is your budget projected to grow from $27.2 million in 2010 and will grow 28 per cent to $34.9 million by 2014? That's the kind of zero even the BC Teachers Federation could get behind!
Dubord says: “With respect to salaries, the Sunday premium Bateman mentioned is the direct result of a negotiated collective agreement, yet he neglected to mention that the average salary of the 167 sworn officers ranks fourth behind the Vancouver, Abbotsford and Victoria police departments. Still, we will continue to look for ways to operate more efficiently and focus on reducing our overtime expenditures.”
We say: Just because it’s in a collective agreement doesn’t make it right. A 25 per cent bonus to work Sundays is ridiculous and costly: $1.4 million over five years, and growing annually. As for claiming that salaries lag the other jurisdictions, that doesn’t fit with the statistics we’ve seen—nor does it fit with anecdotal discussion with officers from those jurisdictions who point to transit cops as a reason why they should be paid more.
Dubord says: “Bateman concludes by sharing his opinion that the Transit Police should be disbanded, and local police forces should be given back full jurisdiction over SkyTrain lines in their community. This is simply not an option for a transit system that runs through twenty-two different municipalities that are linked to a variety of jurisdictional police departments that can provide varying levels of capacity and service to our transportation system.”
We say: TransLink’s own stats show that 99 per cent of Transit Police files happen in five communities: New Westminster, Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby, and Richmond. The other 17 municipalities are virtually ignored—yet those 17 cities’ residents pay all the various TransLink taxes. Ask any bus driver: it’s not that there are no transit-related crimes in the other 17 municipalities; it is just that the TransLink police do not respond. They don't ride buses, as we’ve long heard from the media. Interesting that Dubord doesn’t break out how many files generated as a result of bus incidents.
Our bottom line: Duplication is always expensive. Under the current model, transit security in our region is provided by three agencies: the TransLink police, the jurisdictional police, and Transit Security (who work for Coast Mountain Bus Company). The trouble is with the duplication of services between the policing agencies (which means taxpayers are double-paying): two times the overhead—two sets of management, two sets of building costs, two sets of administrative costs. In a region where policing is constantly criticized for being too fragmented (divided by city police forces and RCMP), how can the Lower Mainland justify paying for a police department that doesn't even have its own jurisdiction?
A good example of duplication is the cost of dispatchers. TransLink police have dispatchers, but they do not take 911 calls. If you call 911 on transit, your call goes to E-Comm and you are asked "what city" (not "what SkyTrain"). Then, you are transferred to a dispatcher at a jurisdictional police department and the jurisdictional police respond. Sometimes the jurisdictional police dispatcher will notify TransLink police dispatchers, other times this doesn't happen. The Edmonton report which talks about the confusion in this process is dead on.