Police seek budget increase for mental health officers

Victoria police are looking to add three new officers to aid with increased mental health and crime issues in the downtown core.

Victoria police are looking to add three new officers to aid with increased mental health and crime issues in the downtown core.

As part of the Victoria Police Department’s proposed budget for 2017, police are seeking two new officer positions for a two-year pilot project to divert people suffering from mental health or addiction issues away from the criminal justice system and into recovery.

The additional officers would be a part of the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team in the region, which is comprised of nursing staff, outreach and social workers, a probation officer, a police officer, a ministry and social development worker, who provide support to people living with severe and persistent mental illness.

There are currently two officers on the team — one position was added in July as part of a six-month pilot project and has resulted in 12 police referrals during the last four-and-a-half months, acting police chief Del Manak told Victoria city council Thursday.

The new officers would act in a more preventative nature, dealing with outreach and stabilization, and assisting with more violent or extreme members of the public — some of whom other ACT members are hesitant to deal with at times.

The department is also seeking another officer for its community crime watch program. As part of the program, volunteers go out into the community, observe suspicious behaviour and report back to a crime watch officer, who decides whether or not to take action.

The two additional ACT officers come at a cost of $240,141 for each of the two years, while the crime watch officer would cost $143,675 annually.

Police made a similar budget request to approve a two-year, $500,000 pilot project last year, but were turned down.

But Manak said this proposal is much stronger than the last, adding the department is also in the process of finalizing a mental health strategy that puts forward a more philosophical view about how police should approach mental illness in the community.

“The Victoria Police Department differentiates people who are vulnerable, people who need help, and people who have mental illness. Our goal is not to arrest those people, our goal is help those people and divert them away from criminal justice system,” Manak said.

Most councillors expressed support for the request, noting they will wait to hear from the general public about safety on streets. However, not all councillors were on board with the idea.

Coun. Ben Isitt questioned why police are being forced to take on social issues, which should be the responsibility of the province.

“I don’t blame the chief from coming to council looking for more money, but the fact is I would rather see us push back against the province,” Isitt said. “I’d much rather focus advocacy efforts with Esquimalt council and the police board than a motion to keep throwing money at the department and accepting and condoning provincial responsibilities.”

Overall, the department is seeking a $2.2 million increase in its 2017 budget to $50.8 million.

Manak said increased densification in the city has resulted in a jump in crimes rates over the past two years and increased workloads on officers, who are being “stretched thin.”

Officers are being forced to juggle more time spent on missing people investigations, domestic disturbance calls, overdose calls related to fentanyl, as well as increased security around city events, as a result of international events, such as the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013, and the shooting at Pulse Night Club in Orlando in June, he noted.

Funding for the department is shared between Esquimalt and Victoria. The budget will be finalized in January.

 

 

 

Just Posted

Victoria-born, 16-time Grammy winning musician David Foster penned a letter to the Greater Victoria School District May 7 urging them not to cut music programs. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
David Foster joins fight to save music in Greater Victoria School District

‘Music is the great equalizer’ Foster wrote in a letter to the district

‘Nindanikoobijiganag: We are Star People’ by Mississauga Nishnaabe Lucbanin artist Estrella Whetung. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Victoria beadwork exhibit speaks to evolving, enduring nature of Indigenous art

On Beaded Ground features work from West Coast artists and a Cedar Hill Middle School group

Former Victoria HarbourCat and Chicago White Sox player Andrew Vaughn. (Photo courtesy of Chicago White Sox)
Former Victoria HarbourCat hits first MLB home run, adds another two days later

Andrew Vaughn is the first HarbourCat alumni to hit a homer in the majors

A seniors housing complex proposed for Cedar Hill Road in Saanich was supported by council after a public hearing on May 12. (Rendering by Jenson Group Architects)
New 85-unit seniors housing development gets green light from Saanich council

Four-storey rental complex would be located on Cedar Hill Road

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Most Read