Saanich police chief earning more than B.C.’s top politicians

Saanich police chief earning more than B.C.'s top politicians

WATCH:  Saanich’s police chief retired this summer. But he is not leaving his job. As a matter of fact, the chief will earn more over next two years than politicians running the province. Mary Griffin reports. 

It’s business as usual at the Saanich Police Department.  Despite his retirement in July, Chief Constable Bob Downie is still running the department.

Former Liberal Solicitor General Kash Heed says the idea of a police chief retiring, then immediately rehired is uncommon, but not unusual.

“That’s where it’s a little unusual but has it been done here in British Columbia with municipal police agencies. And it’s been done elsewhere in Canada,” Heed said. “The concerning part that I have is that he is remaining with the organization. This is taxpayers’ money that is being spent in this particular area.”

Here’s the breakdown on the amount of money Downie is earning as a contracted employee over the next two years.   With an annual salary of more than $222,000, he’ll earn more than $445,000.  He’s already received more than $378,000 in severance. He is receiving a pension of approximately $140,000 for the next 2 years, for a total of $280,000.  Over the next two years, he’ll earn $1,104,212.20.

“They are definitely making more than the premier of the entire province,” Kris Sims, the B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said.

According to figures from the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, the premier earns approximately $200,000 a year, plus benefits.  Sims says that is less than what the Saanich Police Board is paying its chief.

“This is already a triple whammy for taxpayers in British Columbia,” Sims said. “And we’re very concerned about it. Because it is a lot of money.”

Municipalities do hire retired police officers who are earning pensions.  In 2009, Oak Bay hired a retired Saanich deputy chief for six months, who was earning a pension, while the municipality searched for a new police chief.   But Heed says two to three years is too long to wait for a new chief.

“Part of your duty and part of your governance with the police agency is to have that succession plan in place,” Heed said. “So you don’t have to go on a universal search for chief and spend all that taxpayer money.”

There is an option for the Saanich Police Board to extend the chief’s contract for a third year.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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