I read the recent statements by Delta police Chief Jim Cessford regarding regional policing models with an overwhelming sense of irony. I'm very pleased to hear he supports keeping our local police force and not moving to a regional model, unfortunately, his philosophy does not extend to housing prisoners in Delta.
The chief recently recommended to the Delta police board the department contract out its jail guard services to the City of Surrey. The board approved the recommendations and now talks are underway with the RCMP and the City of Surrey.
This decision will see our police officers taking prisoners to RCMP headquarters near Highway 10 and 144th Street in Surrey rather than bringing them to Delta police headquarters in Ladner. This will be a significant increase in travel time for many of the officers and it will take place approximately 700 to 900 times per year based on Delta police prisoner statistics from recent years.
Travel time was not part of the report that went to the police board for consideration. CUPE had to raise the question on behalf of Delta residents as to just how much policing time will be lost to our community because officers will be transporting prisoners to Surrey.
The civilian jail guards for the police department are members of our union. They do a great job with little support, not to mention that our jail is one of the few in the province that has not had an in-custody death of a prisoner. We should be celebrating, not eliminating, these employees.
A total of nine jobs, one fulltime and eight part-time, will be lost. We have met once with the department to discuss this transition and, in my view, it does not seem overly interested in finding workable solutions to accommodate these cast-aside staff people.
They won't even consider replacing the contract positions held by commissionaires at the North Delta Public Safety Building in order to allow continued meaningful employment for their employees. That is just not acceptable.
This will also impact local businesses like taxi services that pick up prisoners after they're released, dry cleaning services that clean the laundry for the cells, maintenance work (electrical, construction, etc.) that sometimes undertake repairs in the cells and I understand the food provided to prisoners is also purchased locally.
The police department is doing this because it doesn't want to expend money to upgrade the jail facility in the hope there will be a new headquarters in the near future. That seems clear to me.
No plan is in place at this time to replace the current headquarters. That is also clear.
Our jails currently meet provincial standards. Renovations are needed in the facility, and they will be done even with this decision.
Furthermore, we also don't yet know the operating costs of the move to Surrey RCMP.
They are unionized staff with CUPE Local 402 and are likely to be in the same wage range so the department is unlikely to see a reduction in annual operating costs with this move.
The decision makes little sense, especially given the recent very strong statements made by the chief regarding the importance of local policing.
Darryl Robison is president of CUPE Local 454.