Opinion Column

West Vancouver police culture broken 0

Leo Knight Prime Time Crime columnist 24 hours (PHOTO SUBMITTED).

By Leo Knight, Law and Order, 24 hours Vancouver

The same day a scathing review of the West Vancouver Police Department is made public, the city’s top cop Chief Const. Peter Lepine announces his retirement. (PHOTO WVPD.CA)

The same day a scathing review of the West Vancouver Police Department is made public, the city’s top cop Chief Const. Peter Lepine announces his retirement. (PHOTO WVPD.CA)

It gets “curiouser and curiouser” in the normally sleepy town of West Vancouver and its police department. That, however, is not the only reference to Alice in Wonderland. No, the more curious one came at a press conference Monday with Mayor Michael Smith as he responded to allegations the police department is rife with sexual harassment, bullying and racism.

Smith agreed “inappropriate behaviour” had existed in the department prior to his election two years ago, but claimed that as far as he knew that was then and this is now. Then he stated “it will be fixed quite shortly,” intimating there would be further personnel changes.

So, there was bad behaviour before, but as far as he knows not now — but he’s going to fix what isn’t necessarily occurring and replace people? Like the Queen in Alice, “Sentence first — verdict afterwards.”

He was tap dancing all over the place trying to do damage control following a damning employee survey that revealed rock-bottom morale.

Then former chief Kash Heed went public, calling for an end to the beleaguered force’s alleged old boys’ network. Heed was hired in 2007 to replace the previous chief, who was fired by the police board after a scandal involving after-hours parties in police headquarters.

Heed then left suddenly in 2009 to pursue a provincial political run, which led to the hiring of Chief Const. Peter Lepine, who had spent 30 years with the RCMP.

What is clear in all of this is the employees feel there is no credible leadership in the West Vancouver Police Department and there hasn’t been for years. It remains to be seen how all of this will shake out, but despite calls for an amalgamation of North Shore policing, I doubt that will happen. The personal political fiefdoms on the North Shore have long been an impediment to any common sense.

Late Monday, Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said the director of police services would be conducting a review. Where that might go is anyone’s guess. A previous review resulted in the Esquimalt police being disbanded and policing services handed to Victoria Police Department.

Could that happen here with Vancouver Police Department taking over? Yes, theoretically. But clearly everyone above the rank of constable would have to be relieved of duty. That would be the only way to clean up an infected culture.

But whatever the solution, unlike Alice, this mess isn’t a dream from which citizens can simply wake up.

Leo Knight is a former police officer, security expert and host of primetimecrime.com.  

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