The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board expressed its support for the Victoria Police Department amid calls to defund the police – which it noted has added “additional challenges” to the daily work of the department.
The board, which is made up of seven members including Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, issued a letter to the police department on Sept. 9, writing that demands for police leadership in the community have grown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a trying time and one where we are all trying to do the best we can,” the board writes. “We are immensely proud of the service you have been able to offer our communities.”
The board then writes that movements such as “defund the police” have added “multiple levels of additional challenges to your daily work” and should spark conversations but not discredit the work of the force.
“The Victoria Police Department is a leader in policing and operates with integrity,” the board writes. “The heart that each of you bring is noticed and is what makes VicPD a community leader.”
In June, the police board requested a racial and gender analysis of the Victoria police department to determine the number of Black, Indigenous and other people of colour on the force in comparison to the city’s general population. According to VicPD, that information would provide a baseline for focused recruiting.
Calls to defund police forces came after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black North Americans. More recently, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Many in support of the defund the police movement say it is rooted in the need to address systemic racism in policing and reallocate police funding for things like housing and community supports.
Thousands attended a rally for Black lives on June 7 in Victoria’s Centennial Square. In August, the City of Victoria asked for the removal of the acronym A.C.A.B. – which stands for All Cops are Bastards – from a mural painted in Bastion Square by artists of colour. The mural was sponsored by the City of Victoria and the African Heritage Association of Vancouver Island.
-with files from the Associated Press.