After months of review the province has sided with the Victoria Police Department in its request for six additional officers, after funding for the positions was rejected as a part of the 2018 budget.
The Police Services Division submitted a report to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins to alert them of the decision.
“In light of the forgoing and in consideration of all the material put before me, I have concluded that six police officers requested as part of the 2018 provisional budget request should be included in the VicPD budget,” wrote Tonia Enger, director of Police Services. “When resource pressures exceed available personnel, what greatly suffers is the proactive and preventative work. In my view, such work is not a ‘nice to have’ but is in fact a necessity.”
For Desjardins, the decision is bittersweet.
“I think that it is a decision that provides an opportunity for both the Police Board and the police department, because of the need in Victoria for more officers,” Desjardin said. “But it speaks very strongly that the framework agreement has not been upheld when dealing with this.”
The Victoria-Esquimalt Framework Agreement, signed April 17, 2014, outlines how the municipalities allocate police resources, essentially ensuring that when Victoria receives more officers, Esquimalt will too.
“Our statistics show that we do not need more officers in Esquimalt,” Desjardins said, emphasizing why Esquimalt vetoed the original request. “But now we’ll get extra policing regardless of if we need it or not.”
The Police Services report reprimanded the police board for not properly laying out benefits to Esquimalt in its budgetting procedure.
On Esquimalt’s end, the township’s contributions to the new officers will be roughly $40,000 in 2019, while Victoria will cover $300,000 since recruitment of the new officers likely won’t happen until September.
In following years, Victoria will cover the majority of the portion, with an expected annual cost of an additional $667,000 in 2020 – including a one-time investment of $60,000 – and $606,000 in following years.
The City of Victoria found the timing of the decision to be a wrench in the gears as budget discussions continued Thursday morning. Finding funding for the officers proved to be a complicated process which resulted in a decision defferal until a revised budget from the police was seen.
During the committee of the whole discussion, Chief Const. Del Manak said that appointing the six new officers might not mean re-instating school liaison officers.
“I have every intent that my goal is to replace the school officers at the earliest opportunity, but that fact that council is not supporting the  police budget has been a challenge,” Manak said, noting that the current stance put forward by council puts nine VicPD jobs at risk. “I’m going to have to delay putting school liaison officers back if that motion stands.”
On Thursday morning Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth found the Police Services’ decision to be appropriate.
“Any time there is a joint partnership or agreement, you need to have a mechanism to resolve disputes,” Farnworth said. ” So, in a nutshell, you could say that sometimes the kids can’t play in the sandbox, and dad has to come in and say this is how it’s going to be.”
–With files from Tom Fletcher
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