Team disbanding to save NWPD money

The MIERT team in action. - Black Press file photo
The MIERT team in action.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

Municipal emergency response squad folds, New West signs on with RCMP

The New Westminster Police Department expects to save about $100,000 by using the RCMP’s emergency response team following the disbanding of a similar squad comprised of officers from four municipal forces.

The Municipal Integrated Emergency Response Team (MIERT), which was formed in the late 1990s, was disbanded as of Jan. 1. MIERT responded to high-risk situations such as drug busts, armed standoffs and gang-related arrests in Abbotsford, Delta, Port Moody and New West with all of the forces contributing personnel.

“What it really came down to is probably we started to see our use of it declining yet our cost of it increasing,” said NWPD Chief Const. Dave Jones.

Under the MIERT model, he said, the department paid a floating cost of about $400,000. Most of the money would go toward paying the salaries of its officers to be involved on the team as well as equipment, a vehicle and administration. On top of those costs, every time MIERT was called to New West, the NWPD would have to pay the extra costs, such as overtime.

Jones said New Westminster utilized MIERT much more in the early years because of drug-related incidents, something that has declined significantly in recent years.

Now the NWPD will pay a fixed cost of just over $300,000, said Jones.

Contracting the service out will also allow the officers previously seconded in MIERT to return to front-line policing in New West, said Jones. The wages of any members the department does contribute to the RCMP team, which receives federal and provincial funding, will be paid back to the NWPD. He also pointed out using the RCMP team ensures there will be high-quality and highly trained personnel responding to all the incidents.

Jones said the four forces began looking at the switch almost two years ago. He emphasized there was no political pressure to make the move.

“What is prevalent is we start to hear about the cost of policing and sustainability of policing, so we’re trying to be aware of it and look at areas where we can maintain the same level of services but in a manner that will allow us to build our force in a different way,” Jones said.

While Port Moody has opted to use the Vancouver Police Department’s response team when needed and Delta has decided on a hybrid of Vancouver and its own, Abbotsford will develop its own squad.

APD Const. Ian MacDonald said that city made the most use of MIERT and paid the largest portion of the costs, between 40 and 50 per cent. It made particular use of it in 2008 and 2009 to deal with Abbotsford’s gang problem.

The last time MIERT was utilized in New Westminster was for a standoff near the Starlight Casino parking lot in Queensborough on Nov. 8 in which the gunman was shot by police and later died. Jones said the RCMP’s Lower Mainland team was actually the first to respond to the incident until MIERT was able to arrive and take over. The provincial Independent Investigations Office has taken over investigation of that case.

– with files from Vikki Hopes

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