Esquimalt has voted against giving police additional resources in 2022, disrupting the budget process for the Victoria Police Department, after Victoria approved its share of funding last month.
Esquimalt council on Monday rejected police budget requests to hire an additional six officers and four civilian positions. Council also voted against the township putting $108,000 towards VicPD’s increased core budget.
The additional positions would have cost Esquimalt close to $150,000 this year. Councillors struggled with how much benefit the community would actually receive and pointed to a 2020 provincial report that found the township is already paying for more police services than its crime rate demands.
“Until we’ve solved the extra number of officers that we have, I really can’t justify adding any further at this time. Each and every one of these (positions) is needed, in Victoria,” Mayor Barb Desjardins said. “That report came out two years ago and we haven’t moved the needle, and I think we need to move the needle.”
Staff said Monday VicPD’s budget requested $253,000 for overtime costs associated with responding to protests and shelter spaces. Esquimalt’s share of that would be about $35,000. Several councillors took issue with this, saying Esquimalt would essentially be subsidizing the police response in downtown Victoria.
Council touted one of the new positions, a cultural liaison officer, as being especially valuable in building trust with the community. However, a motion to fund the officer was voted down as councillors questioned if the single officer would be too stretched from serving Victoria to have an impact on Esquimalt. Coun. Meagan Brame added the position lacked details.
“How is this one going to be trained specifically, culturally? That’s the question that’s never been explained,” she said. “Is this just an officer, or is it someone with some specialized training.”
Esquimalt did approve supplemental funding of about $6,000 for a restorative justice line item in the police budget.
Esquimalt staff noted the positions added this year would require annual funding moving forward.
Policing overall is expected to make up 22 per cent of the township’s 2022 budget. It cost Esquimalt $8.4 million last year. The 202o report recommended Esquimalt’s allocation to VicPD’s budget be reduced over two years, to 13.67 per cent this year.
VicPD sought an additional $4 million this year, for a total proposed budget of about $63.4 million.
“From an operational perspective, I am disappointed that VicPD’s budget was not approved in its entirety,” VicPD Chief Del Manak said in a Tuesday statement. “Personnel shortages and the demands on our people are only mounting, and this pressure is affecting our ability to provide the community policing that our citizens expect.”
Victoria council on Feb. 5 approved spending about $940,000 on the 10 new VicPD positions in 2022. A City of Victoria spokesperson told Black Press Media the city is assessing its next steps after Esquimalt’s decision to not fund the increased police budget.
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