VicPD 2020 budget described as ‘bare bones’

WatchA "bare bones budget," that's what Victoria's police board co-chair is calling their latest financial request to Victoria's city council. They are asking for an increase of almost five per cent. But as Julian Kolsut reports, the board says it still leaves many issues for officers.

The co-chair of Victoria’s police board is calling their 2020 budget “bare bones.”

On Friday Victoria’s police chief Del Manak, along with other staff, presented their budget to Council. In it is a request for a 4.43 per cent increase in funding.

That brings the total budget to $58,241,090. It’s the second year VicPD have requested an increase, but they say officers are being stretched very thin.

“This budget will not do a lot of things,” said Victoria Mayor and co-chair Lisa Helps.

“It’s not going to shorten wait times for calls, it’s not going to make police to be more proactive… it’s a bare bones budget, [but] it is an expansion budget.”

Currently, 35 officers are off the job, as a result of work or stress related injuries — around 14 per cent of the force.

In an effort to reduce some of the burden, a pilot project would bring in civilians as special municipal constables that would deal with lower level tasks like administrative duties and limited front line work — but the board says this is not a solution to the problem.

Funds from the budget will also be put towards health and wellness programs for officers.

Councillor Ben Issit also called on the province Friday to look again at regional policing, something the city requested months ago but was shot down.

“We’ve asked for very clearly for the attorney general to step in, to have a conversation to lead a conversation … Victoria polices everyone who is in the city boundaries and who is in Esquimalt boundaries,” said Helps.

“That’s way more people that actually live here… we welcome that, we welcome being the employment centre, we welcome being the entertainment centre, but I can tell you for sure all the people pouring out of the bars at 2 a.m. on Friday night are not from the city of Victoria…  if someone came to the region right now and said “oh what kind of police department should we set up” they wouldn’t have set up 13 different circumstances.”

And the police board is going even further, asking the province to overturn a Victoria council decision to not employ four specialized positions. Two of which are Assertive Community Treatment officers who specifically focus on issues like mental health.

“Making sure people are safe, making sure people are not clogging up the sidewalks… that takes a very delicate touch, that is not an enforcement type touch, that really is a community outreach touch,” said Grant McKenzie of Our Place Society.

“They are getting to know the guys, getting to get them to move along in a non-violent way, and having that non-aggression pact as real community members is very important to the vulnerable population we support.”

The province has historically refused to get involved.

The City of Victoria budget will be finalized in the new year.

The full budget can be found here.

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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