For the second time in less than two months, Esquimalt council denied the Victoria Police department’s budget request of $40,778, to hire six new officers.
Deputy Chief Colin Watson, acting on behalf of Chief Const. Del Manak, presented a revised budget during the March 5 council meeting at municipal hall after the original request was voted down 4-3 in January.
The initial budget request had requested $94,000 to hire six officers and two civilian staff, but the Township bristled at the amount saying they couldn’t justify saddling Esquimalt taxpayers with the cost, without a clearer idea about how that would specifically improve police services in the municipality.
Watson said calls to the department – an amalgamated police force serving both Victoria and Esquimalt – had risen 19.4 per cent between 2012 and 2016.
“We’re a 24/7 operation, so it actually takes five police officers to put one police officer on the road,” he said, adding the sharing of resources between the bordering municipalities “happens more than you think.”
Calls for service, investigative procedures and the overall response capacity for emerging challenges in the policing world are some of the reasons VicPD has focused on improving services on the front line.
“Our staff are telling us that workload is a major stresser for them,” Watson told council. “I worry about how long we can keep that going.”
An independent study reported the department, who hasn’t increased their force in almost a decade, actually needs more than six officers. Manak has said that if the budget requests continue to be denied, the department will have to look at cutting services in non-critical areas.
After lengthy discussion, council was left befuddled saying they didn’t feel there was enough detail in the “repackaged” presentation, nor did it align with the framework agreement the department made with Victoria and Esquimalt back in 2014.
Coun. Morrison said it’s not about the dollar amount, but what is fair for the community, calling on the provincial government who he feels is lagging on a promise to implement a regional police force.
“Until that happens, all I can do is continue to fight for what is fair for our community and I cannot in good conscience vote to support this request on those grounds,” he said.
The matter is now headed to the provincial government, who will conduct a resolution process under the British Columbia Police Act.