The Victoria Police Department is proposing continued changes to its operating model following staffing and budgeting issues.
In a “Transformation Report” released on Wednesday, VicPD cited budgetary restrictions from the City of Victoria and the Township of Esquimalt as one of the largest hurdles for full service followed by staffing shortages, and announced several upcoming changes to meet the challenge.
One of the largest changes includes prioritizing calls to the point that some will not receive a response at all. This, said Chief Const. Del Manak, comes because there’s an average of 25 to 55 calls in a holding queue at a time waiting for a police response.
“I talked to one of the on-duty sergeants last week, and he says he went on his four days off and that the same call that was in holding that they never got to when he was working was still in the work queue [when he got back],” Manak said. “I just don’t think that’s good service.”
In an effort to try to limit this wait, Manak said police will no longer be responding to certain calls, including those surrounding bylaws. This might include responding to injured deer or wake up calls for homeless people in the downtown area.
Several changes are expected in police services in response to budget and staffing issues. Here @vicpdcanada Chief Const. Del Manak explains why some calls will no longer get a police response #yyj pic.twitter.com/PE4sRpCOUe— Nicole Crescenzi (@NicoleCrescenzi) July 31, 2019
“Should the police even be attending?” Manak said. “There’s no doubt there’s going to be significant changes in our response capacity and in the ability for us to focus and respond to calls.”
The Victoria Police Department is also looking at hiring several special municipal constables – unarmed civilian officers –to handle administration and low-priority calls. They would earn a lower wage than sworn-in officers.
“What it would really do is if a call is complicated and has a lot of administrative tasks to it, we could have the special municipal constable follow the officer to complete those tasks, thus freeing the officer to go back on duty,” Manak said.
Manak said the Victoria Police Department is pitching the idea to the Victoria Police Board as a pilot project for 2020 and is hoping funding could be supplied for it.
Other adjustments include changing patrol shifts, instating an investigation and support units to take over-the-phone statements, and pulling two of three officers from the assertive community treatment team (ACT) to be reassigned to front line response.
Cybercrime counter-measures may also go stagnant, after the report stated that funding for the cybercrime unit was not approved by council.
“Some of those [changes] will create significant efficiencies which we feel will help deliver better services,” Manak said. “But there’s no doubt about it, there’s a number of areas where there will be service reductions and cuts to what the police department has done in the past.”
These are in conjunction to changes that have already occurred at the department including limiting VicPD office hours, dissolving the crime reduction unit and removing liaison officers from schools.
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