Victoria police say the cost of overtime pay for officers policing protests and rallies up to March 5 of this year is more than twice as much as all of last year.

According to VicPD, the department spent  $183,037 on overtime costs associated with officers covering 34 public rallies, marches, demonstrations and protests from Jan. 1 to March 5.

In all of 2019, VicPD spent $82,765 on overtime pay related to 40 public rallies, marches, demonstrations and protests.

For public rallies, marches, demonstrations and protests that span a number of days, each day is counted as an event, according to VicPD.

Victoria police say the overtime costs released are only related to rallies, marches, demonstrations and walk-outs.

“Whenever possible, on-duty resources are used to provide public safety.  However, if the size and complexity of an event requires it, additional officers will be deployed on overtime to ensure public safety,” VicPD said in its release about the numbers. 

The larger group demonstrations earlier this year included student walk-outs, along with the demonstrations and sit-ins at the B.C. legislature by supporters of some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who are against building the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C.

Earlier in March, a draft agreement was reached during talks in Smithers, B.C. involving Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and senior ministers of the federal and B.C. governments.

Victoria police say the overtime costs released are only related to rallies, marches, demonstrations and walk-outs.

Manak said there has been a “steady incline” in protests over the last few years. In 2017, VicPD was at 14 protests, followed by 28 in 2018, 40 in 2019 and 30 (so far) in 2020.

Victoria Police Chief Del Manak said the way that people protest has changed, including the level co-ordination of the protest.

“They are far more structured,” Manak said.

“They usually have an objective they want to achieve.”

Manak said police will always try to speak to protesters about having demonstrations that are safe, peaceful and lawful.

“We’re finding that we need to have more staff because of the co-ordination level of the protesters, more so today than in years past.”

Manak also said the department balances the need to create an environment for a peaceful demonstration while maintaining public safety.

“That can be a really, really tough road,” Manak said.

“There’s been many protests where intersections are blocked and major highways are blocked and bridges are blocked.”

As for the rest of the year, Manak said COVID-19 has changed how the public is gathering and protest activity has taken a backseat for now.

And Manak said they are still waiting for the outcome of more talks between the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the B.C. government. The discussions have also been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With files from The Canadian Press

Alexa Huffman