Victoria calls for equal police funding

Council, police board officials desire funding for municipal police service

To lighten the financial load of paying for municipal policing, the province should change the way it doles out money to municipalities, says Victoria’s city council.

Under the current formula, the province passes on federal funding to municipalities serviced by the RCMP. The feds cover 10 or 30 per cent of RCMP costs, depending on population.

“A 10-per-cent grant from the federal government to Victoria police officers, that’s probably around $4 million. That’s an extra 40 cops on the street,” said Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, who also chairs the Victoria Police Board. Municipalities, such as Victoria and Esquimalt, solely fund their own municipal police services, he said.

Council decided July 7 to ask the Union of British Columbia Municipalities to include the issue for discussion at its September convention.

“When we take a look at our average caseload, compared to everyone else, we are about 40 cops short from what we need to get our caseload down to the provincial average,” Fortin said.

To effect change, council hopes other B.C. municipalities will join in asking the provincial government to change the funding process so they too receive the same financial support as municipalities that have RCMP services.

There are still many benefits of having a municipal police service, rather than an RCMP force, such as the autonomy that comes with a municipal police board, Fortin said.

“So you have an opportunity for greater input from a community level. You don’t have that with the RCMP,” he said.

The federal government cost-shares RCMP services, which can be redeployed throughout Canada in the event of an emergency, according to the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

In addition, the ministry says it already contributes to local policing and public safety by returning traffic fine revenue to municipalities – an average of $60 million a year since 2008.

Esquimalt council is also supportive of asking the province to change the funding process.

“Municipalities are really feeling pinched,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.

“(It is) very difficult for (people in) a small community to sustain two- and three-per-cent increases in costs on their taxes per year for one service.

“Because (municipalities) are a creature of the province, we have to turn to the province to look for assistance with resolving some of these issues.”

emccracken@vicnews.com