The Victoria Police Department is requesting a 4.43 per cent increase for its 2020 budget, bringing its grand total up to $58,241, 090.
In a budgetary council meeting on Thursday morning, Victoria Police Chief Const. Del Manak, Police Board member Sean Powell and Victoria Police controller Steve Hurcombe explained their reasoning behind the $2.5 million increase request.
The majority of these costs will go to the full-year salary for six additional police officers hired in 2019, an increase to its capital funding to bring it back to its 2018 levels, wage inflation, retirement payouts, the cost for a pilot project on hiring special municipal constables and increased funding for employee health and wellness initiatives.
Manak added that certain steps had been taken to save costs, including pooling portable radios to save $75,000 per year, having volunteers and reserve police perform more than 20,000 hours of work, and gathering provincial paybacks on a case-by-case basis for overtime and resources used on larger criminal investigations.
Some items which had been requested and denied in 2019 and were not renewed on the 2020 budget included a cyber crimes sergeant, a research analyst and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) officers.
“We agonized over the tough decisions we have to make, and endeavor to meet your financial expectations,” Powell said. “Part of that agonization is knowing that this budget we bring forward today … it doesn’t allow the ability to continue being innovative, it doesn’t reduce wait times, it doesn’t do a lot of things.”
Councillors were interested in the 2020 hiring for four special municipal constables, who would be unarmed civilians aiding in low-risk, lower-training police duties.
These duties might include jail operations, traffic control, subpoena services, court liaison services, front desk duties, logistics assistance, public complaints, data entry of files, guarding low-risk apprehensions at hospitals, following up with businesses for the recovery of surveillance video, locating next of kin and working at special events.
After asking many additional questions about police procedures, councillors put forward two motions.
Coun. Ben Isitt, who expressed frustration about the police department receiving the highest portion of the city’s budget, put forward a motion for council to write to the province to further consider a more sustainable, regional police force.
“Fiscally, council is reluctant or unwilling to fund requests that VicPD thinks is necessary, so rather than an internal discussion we should be bringing the province into the conversation, since ultimately policing is a provincial issue,” Isitt said.
Coun. Jeremy Loveday also put forward a motion to ask staff to report back on the implication of bringing back the special events policing budget back into the police budget, not to the city’s.
Both motions passed unanimously, and further details of the police budget will be further discussed in the upcoming months.