Report calls for significant changes to legislature security, role of sergeant-at-arms
VANCOUVER -- A report commissioned by the Office of the Speaker of the B.C. Legislature is recommending the role of sergeant-at-arms be scaled back significantly, to become a ceremonial position only.
Written by the Speaker's Chief of Staff Alan Mullen, the report obtained by CTV News comes more than a year-and-a-half after former sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz was suspended, following allegations of misspending taxpayer dollars.
The report was given to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee back in January, but never acted on and never made public.
The report recommends hiring a director of security to oversee security of the B.C. Legislature, and a number of measures that could save taxpayers upwards of $1 million a year.
It claims the Legislative Assembly Protection Service officers, tasked with guarding the B.C. Legislature, are generally overqualified and overpaid for the work they do. All 38 full-time LAPS members are former police officers.
The report suggests the B.C. Legislature scale back from a “policing” model to a “security” model, since the vast majority of infractions they respond to are minor in nature. It recommends a mix of armed officers (former police officers) and unarmed security guards, to save taxpayers money.
It also suggests security staffing be scaled back significantly, when the house is not in session. Currently, the same number of LAPS officers are on shift when MLAs are in the house, as are on shift in the middle of summer, when little is happening at the Legislature.
The recommendations are the result of a fact-finding trip by Mullen to three Canadian (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario) and seven American legislatures (Washington state, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin) to study best practices. The trip cost taxpayers roughly $13,000.
The report states that in most U.S. jurisdictions visited by the author, the Sergeant-at-Arms role is largely ceremonial and not a full-time position. Legislative security is the responsibility of a separate department, or local or state police.
The remuneration in those states is considerably less, as a result. In Idaho, the position earns just $19.95 per hour. In Oregon, the role pays between $42,120 and $44,088. And in Minnesota, the position can earn up to $136,190.
Most Canadian provinces, however, enlist the Sergeant-at-Arms to act in a ceremonial role and also oversee security.
The report points out that the Sergeant-at-Arms salary in B.C. is the highest in Canada, and has risen dramatically from $93,015 in 2008, to $226,467 in 2018. Additional duties and responding to potential security threats have been cited as the rationale behind the salary hike.
In Ontario, the Sergeant-at-Arms earns $182,638. In Saskatchewan, the role pays $109,046. In Nova Scotia, the salary is $78,377.
The report suggests the duties of the Sergeant-at-Arms become exclusively ceremonial and include “carrying the mace to the Chamber, escorting the Speaker, the Lieutenant Governor, Members to or from the Chamber, as necessary, as well as performing ceremonial functions at the Legislature and at Government House.”