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City moving towards charging large events for policing

Coun. Kyle Sampson
Coun. Kyle Sampson

City council has moved ahead with plan to charge major events for policing costs.

Staff has recommended that organizers of large events, like Cariboo Rocks the North, be charged $115 per hour per police officer for attending the event. Had the fee been in place in 2018, Cariboo Rocks the North would have been hit with a bill of about $11,000, the finance and audit committee heard in December.

Promoters of special events are required to provide a security plan that details the security presence at the event. At some of the larger special events, such as the Cariboo Rocks the North event at the CN Centre in August, police presence on the site may be required to ensure public safety.

The requirement for police officer attendance at special events will be determined based upon the potential public risk posed by the scale and nature of each event.

Ongoing police attendance at special events would fall outside of the normal staffing /duties of the members on a watch. Therefore, in most instances, members will need to be brought in on overtime in order to provide coverage for the special event, according to a report to the finance and audit committee.

“The intent would be minimize the impact on normal policing,” Inspector Shaun Wright, Operations Officer for the Prince George RCMP told the committee in December. “Currently these events often necessitate us bringing in members on overtime. That gets billed to the city on the regular overtime budget, there is no mechanism for recovery from outside organizers.”

Events would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis as to whether a police presence is required, Wright said. Large events, such as concerts where alcohol is served would likely qualify, while other events, such as the BCNE, likely wouldn’t.

Coun. Terri McConnachie said she does not support the changes.

“I think that if there’s any conversation to be had, when it comes to budget shortfalls or additional bodies to be supplied that that conversation should take place between the RCMP and the City of Prince George,” she said. “… I’m uncomfortable with shouldering this responsibility to a third party, and this case it would be organizers of events. It just doesn’t sit well with me.”

Coun. Kyle Sampson called the changes “vague” and questioned the mandate of policing in Prince George.

He said supported bringing a bylaw forward, but wants “thorough definitions on what we’re going to be implementing this on.”

“I certainly see both sides of the coin on this,” said Mayor Lyn Hall. “For me it’s getting the specifics of what that bylaw might look like … to have some idea of projected costs might be to those organizations.”

Council, in a 5-2 vote, moved to have staff develop the bylaw.