Victoria police cut school liaison officer program

Victoria police cut school liaison officer program

Victoria Police Chief Del Manak announces the positions that will be reassigned in the Victoria Police Department.

Victoria Police Chief Del Manak announces the positions that will be reassigned in the Victoria Police Department.

Schools in Victoria and Esquimalt are losing their school liaison officers as the Victoria Police Department has eliminated the program.

According to Victoria Police Chief Del Manak, the loss of the program is due to a failure to secure funding for six new officer positions.

Victoria police are reassigning six officer positions to frontline duties, including three school liaison constables, one analysis and intelligence constable, one reserve program constable and one community services division beat constable. Four of the officers will be moved to the patrol division while two will go to the Alternate Response Unit, which takes lower priority calls for service over the phone.

“My preference is to not reallocate any positions and to continue providing the full range of policing services that our citizens expect,” Manak said.  “However, the demands placed on our frontline officers require us to take action now. Citizens expect that when they call 911, an officer will arrive to help them within a short period of time. Without this change, we cannot maintain that basic level of service.”

In the 2018 budget, VicPD requested funding for six officers. However, Esquimalt council voted against spending $40,778 to fund its share of the hiring. Esquimalt is responsible for about 15 per cent of the police budget, while Victoria covers the rest.

The council had been told four of the officers would be based in Victoria while two would be used to create an Alternate Response Unit that would serve both municipalities. The majority of the council voiced doubts about whether statistics show an actual need for more officers in Esquimalt. They also expressed concerns that not one of the new hires would be specifically assigned to the township.

Manak warned that same month that the department would need to cut service levels if the funding for the hiring of the officers was not approved.

“Despite increased community expectations, despite Victoria having the third highest illicit drug overdoses in this province for two years in a row, we have not had an increase to our front line staffing in over eight years as a result,” Manak said on Wednesday. “The only option I have is to reassign six officers to frontline duties.”

Manak said he hopes the decision doesn’t ruin the police department’s relationship with Esquimalt council.

“This actually provides Esquimalt with additional services on the frontline,” Manak said.

He also said he wants this to be a temporary change.

“There is actually a provision in the framework agreement that actually says that should the board decide that the act isn’t being meant, that’s the [B.C.] Police Act, there can be a change to that composition.”

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins criticized Victoria police’s move and said she is disappointed.

“Esquimalt in the negotiation of the framework agreement really worked hard to continue to get the flavour of community policing and school liaison officers was one of those positions that we ensured were included in the appendix of what officers would be in Esquimalt,” Desjardins said.

Desjardins said the move came as a complete surprise as council only received an email about it Wednesday morning.

“It’s not a good way to continue to do a relationship building,” Desjardins said.



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