2 min

Who’s serving who?

Where are cops when we need them?

Credit: Xtra West files

There it was again, in black and white. Insp Dave Jones, the top cop in Vancouver’s West End, was discussing police resources in an interview with Xtra West freelance reporter Jeremy Hainsworth.

Jones was concerned that the soon to be 4 am closing of some downtown bars would require more cops than are available at that hour. A maximum of eight police officers are available in the downtown area at 3:30 am and only five cops at 5 am, said Jones.

“We’re going to ask the city if it’s prepared to provide some dollars for overtime policing so we set a tone that we’re expecting people to behave responsibly,” Jones told Xtra West.

In other words, if council wants late openings, cough up the bucks for cops’ overtime pay. That’s the price of getting rid of Vancouver’s well-earned “No Fun City” moniker.

I had a sad case of déjà vu while reading the good inspector’s comments.

He made much the same point in the period following Aaron Webster’s murder. At several public meetings, the gay community told Jones that we want to see more police patrolling Davie Street after the bars close and the bashers come hunting for us.

But Jones refused to assign more cops to the places and times when we’re bashed. And he cited lack of resources.

That wasn’t the end of it. He asked the community if we wanted undercover cops instead. Gay leaders said no. The VPD did it anyway.

At a meeting with our community a couple of months back, the new chief was asked what the VPD will do to prevent more gay-bashings this summer. At first, Chief Jamie Graham seemed open to the idea, Robin Perelle reported in the next issue of Xtra West. “There is no higher priority” for the force than issues of personal safety, he said. “We’ll do whatever it takes.” Just ask Insp Dave Jones to put more beat cops on Davie St, Graham suggested.

Huh? That’s what we’ve been doing for 18 months without success.

And Jones is again suggesting he’d rather put covert cops on the street. And again, he was told that was a bad idea.

Get the picture?

Jones reached out to our community after Webster was murdered, even marching with us. He’s sat with some of our leaders. He’s been magnificently available for interviews and even took it upon himself to organize support from police and municipal associations for Svend Robinson’s anti-hate private member’s bill. He went to Ottawa to offer support. What’s more, he’s a genuinely friendly guy, the kind of person you’d love to invite for dinner and conversation.

But he’s not going to give us what we want on the street-something which would go so much further in preventing another gay-bashing murder than does Robinson’s bill. So much for genuine community involvement and real community policing.

And now he’s raising the issue of police overtime because of extended bar hours. Wait a minute: most property crime and most violent crime occurs at night. In fact, some 80 percent of it, according to one report I read. So why do most cops work steady day shifts?

Doesn’t it make sense that most cops work at night? That they be in our neighbourhoods, meeting us, when we’re out and about? That they be walking and bicycling and driving at the time when most crime is being committed?

Shouldn’t the staff schedule for the entire force reflect the needs of the rest of us-their customers, bosses and taxpayers all in one.

Seems to me that if Jones cannot find staff to patrol the West End at the times and locations of bashings, then he needs to reschedule his workers appropriately. Similarly, if the force is short of staff when the bars let out, then let’s transfer more officers to the night shifts as a matter of routine; after all, that’s the heavy-crime period.

And don’t be charging taxpayers overtime.