It would be easy to respond to the unionization of the RCMP by bemoaning the fact that the change in their status will undoubtedly result in substantially increased costs for policing in many Vancouver Island communities.
That was certainly the focus of the Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria when they characterized the move as a “hit to municipal budgets.”
But let’s all take a deep breath and look at the reality of the current situation.
The District of Sooke has for years been the beneficiaries of the inequity between municipal police forces that dominate Greater Victoria and the RCMP and that disparity in wages has resulted in some real problems for the force in Sooke.
While the district has been fortunate to have some exemplary officers working in the community, the RCMP has, in general, had to battle against the drain of some of its most talented officers as they move to higher-paying positions in municipal forces.
That turnover invariably robs the community of what Sooke Mayor Maja Tait has characterized as a community memory; the community knowledge and relationships that are at the heart of a community police force.
Sooke has also faced a chronic understaffing of the RCMP detachment; a situation in which the community does not enjoy 24-hour police coverage, seven days a week. A unionized workforce may well force changes in that situation.
The perspective increases in RCMP costs have led some, including the Grumpy Taxpayer$, to speculate that Sooke and the Greater Victoria communities might respond by embarking on the pipe-dream of establishing a regional police force.
Given the history of other Greater Victoria initiatives to rationalize the Balkanized nature of the region, the idea is laughable.
That’s why it was refreshing to hear Tait respond to questions regarding RCMP costs in a rational, common-sense manner.
She recognized that RCMP officers in Sooke play an important role in the community and expressed the belief that anything that creates an equitable and safe environment for those officers is a good thing.
Beyond the adrenaline-fueled risks commonly associated with police work, much of their work involves softer skills.
Good police officers can make a profound difference in a community through education, communication and relationship building. They become a part of the community, keeping it safe while addressing hidden issues that often go unrecognized.
Quite simply, some things are worth the price.