The New Westminster police board is a little shorthanded and is hoping to fill a vacancy as soon as possible.
The police board, which oversees and provides direction to the New Westminster Police Department, is comprised of the mayor (who is the designated chair of the board) and four additional members. One of the current members is taking a temporary leave of absence and one position has to be filled after a former member completed their term on the board.
“We are a little short staffed at the board right now,” Mayor Jonathan Cote said at the Feb. 16 police board meeting. “I do know we have submitted one appointment to the province. I am not sure how long that review will take, and hopefully another member will be coming back soon.”
The issue arose during receipt of correspondence from the British Columbia Association of Police Boards, which is seeking appointments to its 2021/22 executive board. The board was unable to name a director and an alternate to the BCAPB.
Chief Const. Dave Jansen said he will contact the association and explain the situation being faced by the New Westminster police board at this time.
“It is an important time, obviously, with the review going on,” Jansen said. “I am sure that is why they are pushing it.”
Jansen will report back to the board at its next meeting.
“Who knows? Maybe we will have a larger board at that time?” Cote said.
More members needed?
Cote later told the Record an appointment has yet to be filled for a member whose term ended in November 2020.
“This is a city appointment. The city has actually interviewed candidates and has put forward a candidate to recommend to the province, but the province still has to approve that. That process could take a month or two,” he said. “We are a little bit short. With such a small board of only five members, when you lose a couple of members, it becomes a really, really small group. We are really eager to get the police board back up and full again.”
Cote said many other police boards have seven board members, but New Westminster only has five. He said there may be a need to advocate for a larger police board.
“Especially given the challenges that we face this year with appointments coming to an end and a leave with one of the members, it kind of has really had the board quite shorthanded,” he said. “We are hoping obviously in the next two months to get back up to a full complement, but for the time being we are at three board members.”
On the upside, Cote noted that once the new member is appointed and the existing member returns, the board will be stable for some time as the longest-serving board member still has at least a year-and-a-half left on his term.
“Police reform is obviously a really topical issue, and it’s something that the police board is wanting to engage in,” he told the Record. “Certainly being short on members with the police board when we are dealing with such important topics is a challenge. So we are looking forward to having a full complement so we can really and truly engage in that.”