Politics of policing bar the right way

For a number of reasons, the debate has been raging in the Vancouver area about the potential amalgamation of the various police services into a regional police service.
The new Chief Constable of West Vancouver Police Department, Kash Heed, weighed in with his comments that it was high time for a regional police force. In the aftermath, I spoke a number of times on various radio talkshows essentially explaining that the talk of this has been happening since at least the 70’s when I was a baby Mountie transferred into the Lower Mainland.
I received an email from a friend who is from BC, but is now a cop in California. The problem is the politics of policing. A nebulous term perhaps. But it is a prevalent issue. Here are his thoughts pasted in:

Hi Leo,

I thought I would add my observations to the current media storm of police dept. amalgamation in metro Vancouver. I think it will never come about for the following reasons:

1. Unlike in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa it is not the simple task of amalgamating a bunch of smaller agencies with one larger agency. That’s why it went so smoothly in those places.

2. Vancouver has three police masters to appease: V.P.D. , the R.C.M.P., and, the smaller municipal depts. as a group. Both V.P.D. and the R.C.M.P. have the attitude their way is the only way and would never surrender to the other. The sdmaller “munies” at least work operationally as part of both systems, and are best prepared to transition (e.g. computer systems, tactics, training, etc.)

3. There are about 5,000 cops at all levels in metro Vancouver. Even if they convince a lot of the Mounties to become part of a regional force, there would still be a lot who would refuse to leave the Mounties. How can you replace so many cops, especially nowadays when it’s so hard to find good quality candidates?

4. Where would the Mounties send all their redundant officers from the Lower Mainland? A huge amount of the force is employed in the Lower Mainland and it would force the Mounties to shrink. I know the force is undermanned but they would end up with a huge surplus they could not fund federally (without provincial and municipal contracts).

5. How do you harmonize the R.C.M.P. pension plan with the provincial police one? I did a study of this issue when I was in college in the late 1980’s. I found it has been talked about since the 1930’s!! I think the best that metro Vancouver will ever see is a few police resources and units(like the current regional homicide unit) being regionalized. But I would make a hefty bet that their will NEVER be one Metro Vancouver Police Dept. The Lower Mainland’s situation has too many logisitical obstacles (let alone the politics) to prevent it.

My friend summarizes things well in that the politics of policing will prevent the logical and ultimately “right” thing from occurring.

The reality is that the carpet cops will always move to protect their fiefdom and not do what is right for the public. I’m a little surprised that Chief Heed failed to address that in his article. But, the politics prevalent in the policing world are a significant barrier to doing what is right for the law abiding , tax-paying public.

To understand an aspect of this, let’s look at the final email sent out by the President of the Calgary Police Association to its membership in the waning days of his tenure. Al Koenig has served for three terms and cannot seek another term. He sent the following communication to each and every member of the Calgary Police Service. It is instructive in the crass and crude way it describes and plays the politics of policing. Here it is in its entirety and unadulterated:

CPA President’s Final Message

As this will be my last message to the membership as president, I thought it appropriate to reflect briefly on the past 8 years and to project what hopefully should be occurring in the next few years.I took office on January 1st 2000, and was surprised to find a president’s office where there were few systems or policies in place, and very little accountability.

Member representation seemed to be based on a whim, and many didn’t see the CPA as an organization that protected or advocated their rights. Some CPS management of the day regarded us as a joke, and the media and most Calgarians didn’t even know we existed, or why. I also inherited a CPA bank account that was so barren that we had to cash in GIC’s to pay the property taxes on our lot. Today we have over 2 million dollars in the CPA bank accounts, and a city block/lot valued at over 25 million dollars and growing.I tried to implement true accountability, however faced one or two hostile board members and their friends who proceeded to block every attempt to bring the new practices into place, and used every tool they had at their disposal to try and discredit me, as well as any supportive directors on the board.

Through rumour mongering and spreading false allegations, they tricked the membership into authorizing a forensic audit costing over $50,000.00 to “expose the corruption”. CPA computers were seized and we went into lockdown, of course this was conveniently orchestrated right around election time. The forensic accountants released their report a few months later finding “no illegal or criminal activity” and suggested the very controls be put into place that had been previously blocked by those same conspirators.

We also lived through the toughest negotiations we ever faced as an association, and as a result the Work Awareness Campaign (WAC) was born. During WAC, CPA members wore Back the Blue ball caps & turtlenecks, they grew facial hair, and those that couldn’t wore blue jeans with their uniforms or suit jackets, all showing their protest against lagging contract talks and city bargaining tactics. We marched on City Hall with the firefighter’s union and staged a sit-in during a City Council meeting. WAC also revealed who was willing to stand together…and who wasn’t. I have been told by more than one ex-CPS Executive member that prior to the “Pembrooke Peace Accord”, the CPA broke the spirit of the former chief, something he apparently never forgot or forgave.

In retrospect, it is interesting to note as well that preceding WAC, unless we accepted 0% + 0% we always received our contract settlements as the result of binding arbitration. Since WAC, we have been able to bring contracts before the membership for your vote, and you have ratified them.When I took office, we ranked 66th out of 78 police associations nationally in relation to wages. We have been successful in establishing “Top 10” status and having that recognized by the City of Calgary. At present, our 1st Class Constables are slightly below the “Top 10” by approximately $700.00 annually, but our Senior 1 & 2 Constables, Sergeants, Detectives and Staff Sergeants are in the top 3 of Canada.

In 2008, our senior Staff Sergeants will break the $100k per annum barrier, again not bad when you remember that they were paid $74k in 2000.The CPA is now known publicly as a strong supporter of local and national charities, and has donated well over $200,000.00 to those in need. This year, under the guidance and direction of Cal Wiltshire, and through a partnership with Walmart, the CPA is hosting the first annual Kid’s Christmas party in concert with the Boy’s & Girl’s Club of Calgary. This party will distribute holiday presents not only to CPA members’ children, but to children in need as identified by the Boy’s & Girl’s Club.The Missing Children’s Society, the Weekend to End Breast Cancer, Society for the Treatment of Autism, Prostate Cancer Ride for Dad, Calgary Military Family Resource Center, Camp Carmangay and the Fallen Four Society are but a few of the other groups the CPA has assisted.

One thing that continues to be developed is establishing our own Health & Welfare plan. While we were initially a part of CEEBS, which later became MEBAC, our benefits remain short of where I believe they should be based on our group size and usage. I’m happy to state that the ground work has been laid and contacts established to explore a viable cost neutral alternative to MEBAC.

Again, this is being stewarded by Cal Wiltshire, who currently sits
on the MEBAC board, and he should have good news to report to the membership in the not to distant future.With the arrival of Chief Hanson, it is quite apparent that the CPA is entering into new and exciting times, coupled with a shared vision of forward progress.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the CPA’s efforts in the past appeared to be purposely stalled by the previous chief. Chief Hanson has been very receptive to new ideas, and doesn’t reject initiatives merely because they didn’t come from him.

It is now time for you to decide who can best continue to lead the CPA for the next 3 years. I hope you have all read the candidates platforms and can differentiate poseurs from bona fide candidates. Disrespecting the current elected board of directors and their collective efforts or promising changes slightly short of giving everyone a pony on their birthday are not the basis on which to credibly campaign for office.

I believe there are two exceptional candidates who currently serve on the board of directors that are seeking the position of President. Both have the requisite, unique skills and abilities required to do the job, but what they will also need is a strong board of directors to support them in what has become an increasingly difficult task in an ever changing policing environment.

Another past director has also put his name forward, and stood strong as a member advocate during difficult times. It is easy to lead when there are no problems, and the candidates who previously stepped forward to serve you during tumultuous times should be rewarded with very serious consideration for the various positions.

Conversely I am also duty bound to inform the membership that the fourth presidential candidate was previously sanctioned by the board of directors and even had his honorarium withheld due to his refusal to do the job he was elected for. This individual failed to even attend at the CPA offices for several months, except to pick up his honoraria cheque.

This same individual sat on the SFPP board for several years, (unfortunately a provincially appointed position), and refused to step down despite several requests from the CPA board. This refusal was problematic due to the fact that at the time he was no longer on the CPA board, and refused to address CPA member issues. He also previously sat on the MEBAC board, and refused to carry out CPA directives which resulted in his removal.

The current CPA administration is finally able to address the SFPP and MEBAC issues ignored by this candidate…and ironically he now seeks to return as your president. He was also removed from the WAC committee, perhaps a little too late however.

I can only wonder if past behavior indicates future behavior.It has been an honour and a privilege to serve on your board of directors for the past 15 years, and serve the last 8 years as your president. I have made many lifelong friends and collected a few critics and enemies. To my friends, you have my utmost respect and thanks.

To my critics, grow a pair and run yourself. To my enemies, you can kiss my ass. I leave with my sanity and waistline essentially intact and have no regrets. The CPA is a strong vibrant association with many talented people willing to step up and do the right thing. Please support these individuals because they, and those who preceded them, are what make this association great.

Good luck, best wishes & stay safe.

Al Koenig

While the message emanates from Calgary, the issues are no different in Vancouver. Koenig’s message simply offers us an interesting glimpse into what I am referring.

The politics of policing and the petty empire-building that is so prevalent will, at the end of the day, prevent doing what really needs to be done in Vancouver. The discussion that has been going on for decades is going to continue for a long time to come. No matter how many bodies fall on the streets .

Leo Knight


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  1. Leo,
    I recall the same debate when I joined in the 70s and the guys saying at the time that it had been going on forever. Your friend is quite correct in pointing out some very practical obstacles to regionalization. At the same time I’m sure that many, if not all of those difficulties presented themselves in other cities across Canada such as Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.

    In my opinion the biggest obstacle has always been politics. Individual mayors have been unwilling to give up the close relationship they have with their own police forces and that is understandable. At the same time Provincial Governments have been unwilling to alienate these mayors by overruling them.

    BC being what it is, politics will carry the day and be the deciding factor on this issue. If Gordon Campbell senses this issue will play any role in the next provincial election he’s going where the votes are and to hell with local mayors. Witness the recent debacle when Kash initially made his comments. Les couldn’t wait to get in front of the cameras and savage him (and that’s only what went on publicly). 24 hours later Les is back in front of the cameras doing the same 180 he did in the Frank Paul case. Does anyone believe Les changed his own mind?

    Consider the present situation:

    – Public opinion on the RCMP in BC is at an all-time low. Unfortunately, this is based on a couple of high-profile incidents which have been hijacked by the msm lynch mob but this is what creates public perception and political action.

    – The Pickton criminal trial has just concluded and now comes the public inquiry with all its blame-finding and fingerpointing. One of the pre-eminent issues will be the fragmentation between Lower Mainland law enforcement and what fell through the cracks. This case is also a sore point in the Native community which has recently become so close to the premier’s heart.

    – the other major issue will be the recent spate of high-profile gang murders in public places. If this new Task Force manages to stem the violence then public concern will be allayed. Having been there before, I’d be putting money on the Task Force being disbanded after a few months as has always been the case in the past. Bosses believe ‘supression’ equates to ‘elimination’ and quietly bring these guys back & assign them to deal with other pressing issues. Within 6 months you’re dealing with the same situation again.

    Whether you’re for or against regionalization, the bottom line is that as long as law enforcement in greater Vancouver continues to be underfunded and underresourced, changing the structure will do no more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

  2. Leo,

    I’ve read the posts by your friend in California and by Bob. They are both excellent articles as to why regionalization won’t happen in the GRVD.

    I am a currently serving member in the LMD and am quite aware of the politics of policing in the LMD.

    My own point of view is that, all politics aside, I think the monetary cost alone will be the deciding factor in a regional police force.

    Consider the logistical start up cost of switching to regional police force.

    New crests, vehicles, decals, uniforms, equipment, HQ buildings, and training facilities would have to be purchased or at least expanded from the current hodge-podge that exist in the LMD.

    I suppose the Federal Gov’t could step in with an initial cash infusion to get it off the ground. I even suppose that the Federal Gov’t could cut through the politics by mandating a GRVD regional police force.

    However once regionalized who would pay for maintaining the infrastructure of that police force? Its member’s salary and benefits?

    The obvious answer is the taxpayers in the GRVD. Unlike the metro Toronto area the GRVD doesn’t have a large enough population to provide the tax base. With the smaller population, the tax increase to the GRVD would have to be substantial.

    Considering my own financial situation and that of my friends, many of whom have kids, I can’t see how a GRVD police force would be affordable. Its hard enough to live in the LMD as it is let alone adding the extra tax burden of paying for a regional police.

    Thus dollars and cents will win the day.

  3. Leo,

    As a former member of the Calgary Police Association I read the Koenings final musings and would like to respond to some of his points. (Thou I could counter every point he wrote about)

    He’s right he did leave the assoc. with a good bank account, unfourtunatly this came at the expense of numerous members of the assoc. whom he denied “competent” legal representation. As a result he offered up these assoc. members as “east pickings” to the former regime at CPS. Personally I don’t call this representation, I call it betrayal.

    Lets talk about the computers in the CPA office .The attached document was distributed in Ward 9 where Koeing was running for Alderman, when asked in the local media all Koeing offered was “no comment” end result he recieved around 17% of the total vote, a very sad showing.


    As you are aware, voting for the upcoming civic elections will commence on October 15, 2007. As citizens of this great city, we feel compelled to inform you about some, largely unknown, facts of one of your candidates, Mr. Al Koenig. The following incidents took place while Mr. Koenig was serving as the President of the Calgary Police Association.


    During his Presidency, Mr. Koenig took it upon himself to remove brand new computer equipment that was the property of the Calgary Police Association (CPA). When confronted about the mysterious disappearance of this equipment by members of the CPA board, Mr. Koenig denied the allegation. However, more evidence began to emerge which forced Mr. Koenig to revise his story and inform the board members instead, that he did, in fact, take the equipment; but only for the purpose of having it “repaired”. He was then asked to produce the invoice for the said repair, but was unable to do so. Mr. Koenig changed his story yet again and informed the board members that he actually discarded the computer equipment and, thus, was unable to produce the requested invoice. Much to Mr. Koenig’s credit, he eventually did return the equipment, but only after learning that certain members of the board were in the process of obtaining a search warrant for his home. Search warrants are typically pursued for alleged criminal behavior.


    In the year 2001, Mr. Koenig was confronted by CPA board members, at a general membership meeting, regarding a particular ticket that he received in Edmonton while on business for the CPA. The ticket was issued to the license plate on the vehicle used by Mr. Koenig; a full size pickup truck registered to Mr. Koenig. Strangely, however, the license plate was on a yellow Audi. Mr. Koenig admitted to using his wife’s Audi to make the trip to Edmonton and, in doing so, swapped plates to avoid getting caught by photo radar. Mr. Koenig subsequently submitted a fuel receipt for reimbursement, in excess of $100, for fuel he supposedly used for this trip. He admitted that he had, in fact, filled his pick up truck with the fuel, and not the Audi. Several hundred police officers attended this meeting. Conveniently, the media was barred from attending.

    We are not discouraging you from voting in this vital democratic process. We are only attempting to educate you about certain known facts about Mr. Koenig, should you decide to vote for him as your next Alderman of Ward 9. As voters, you are free to draw your own conclusions about the actions of Mr. Koenig and vote for the candidate you wish.

    Past and present Calgary Police Association members thank you for your time.

    Koening attacks the fourth candidate in his diartibe, and his lack of attendence to the CPA office, maybe this has to more to do with an alleged assault that took place in that same office rather then a lack of commitment on the candidates part.

    Koening is now doing the best thing he’s done in the service of the membership…leave, and quite frankly there is little to no difference between him and the former Chief. We can only hope that the new President of the Assoc. will re-direct the focus of the Assoc. back to its grass roots, member advocacy and less about politics and media play for the former Assoc. President.

  4. Does anyone else find it a interestimg “coincidence” that Als departure occurs so closely after the fall of Jacks Regime, I have always been of the opinion that the two were far more alike then different and wondered how much at odds they really were.

  5. Todays date it was announced that Koening will be the new ” Calgary Police Service Ombudsnman” it would appear that the new Chief has made his first mistake!.

    Koening who was known for saving 2.5 mill. for the assoc, ( mostly on the backs of members whom he denied adequate legal council) is a member of the “old boy” network and is without a doubt the worst person you could have in this position ( if the perspon who holds it should be known for their intergrity as he has none)


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