The Victoria Police Department is waiting on the province to assess if six more police officers are necessary, after two requests for an increased budget for the roles were denied by Esquimalt.
The City of Victoria and Township of Esquimalt both fund VicPD. In budget presentations in January, Chief Const. Del Manak put in requests totalling $642,000 to hire six officers and two civilian staff, noting that deparment staff hadn’t increased in eight years. Esquimalt’s 15-per-cent share of this cost amounts to $94,374.
Victoria supported the idea, but Esquimalt didn’t agree with the amount, saying they couldn’t justify passing that cost on to their taxpayers without a clearer idea about how it would specifically improve police services in the municipality.
In March the request was put in again, and because of the department’s fiscal year calendar, Esquimalt’s portion had dropped to just over $40,000, but the cost was still denied.
In response, Manak decided to pull all liaison officers from local schools.
“I was left to make a decision of what to do, if anything, to reallocate resources for the front lines,” the chief said. “I was under a lot of pressure to ensure we had enough police officers working to respond to 911 emergency calls; that takes priority.”
He added that the loss of school liaison officers is a big hit for students.
“[They] are literally part of the school; they are there on a really consistent, regular basis,” said Manak, a former school liaison officer himself. “I’ve lost dealing with issues and intervening early before some of these small problems become bigger problems.”
Seeing no other options, Manak put forward a review request to the provincial government to determine if the six more officers are required. If the province decides they are, it may mandate the municipal councils to help cover the cost.
Manak is hopeful the government will see how hard the department is working, especially in light of the opioid crisis that has seen Victoria experience the third-highest number of overdose deaths in the province.
“The demands placed on us leaves us with a higher volume of calls and a higher severity of calls looking at mental health issues, street issues and social disorders,” he said. “How can a police department be expected to provide an adequate level of response to the community?”
The province is expected to provide a decision by November at the earliest.