As a result of the failure to secure funding for six new officers, Victoria Police Chief Const. Del Manak announced the department would restructure to focus more efforts on the front lines.
The decision calls for reassigning the department’s three school liaison officers.
But Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said the move is not in line with the policing framework agreement, the document adhered to by council when it voted to turn down VicPD’s funding request earlier this year.
“In Esquimalt, we value a different kind of policing because we’re a smaller community,” Desjardins said. “Community policing involves preventative policing.”
The restructuring would eliminate three school liaison constables (one in Esquimalt), one analysis and intelligence constable, one reserve program constable, and one community services division beat constable.
The framework agreement states that if a designation is taken away for Esquimalt, it needs to be replaced somehow.
“The reality is, is that there is a compliment of officers for Esquimalt and for Victoria and what the Chief has done is to say those compliments don’t matter in that situation,” said the mayor, who co-chairs the Victoria police board.
Roughly 10 per cent of calls to VicPD originate in Esquimalt, yet the Township is footing 14.7 per cent of the cost, Desjardins said.
Through two budget presentations to council, the statistics provided by VicPD aren’t presenting a clear picture, she added. One set of quarterly stats provided by the provincial census doesn’t divide Victoria from Esquimalt.
“Those two sets [of statistics] get used at different times and confuse the public, and it supports certain arguments.”
At a press conference April 25, Manak said the department is hopeful it may secure the required funding in the future, but needs to address staffing challenges now.
“The school liaison officers are critical, but I have to make the decision based on risk to the community,” he said.
The volume of calls, severity of calls and case load per officer is amongst the highest in B.C., Manak said, as policing in the 21st century becomes more complex, requiring more officers and more time. “Everyday we have drug traffickers who are trafficking fentanyl into our drug supply,” he said, adding 91 people died from illicit drug overdoses in Greater Victoria. “I have to prioritize.”
This sense of crisis decision making wasn’t what was presented to council, Desjardins said.
“Chief Manak is really good at reaching out to both communities’ staff and councils so this really goes contrary to what he has done as a practice in the past,” she said, noting that she was blind-sided by the decision. “That is not acceptable and it really does make one wonder what changed. That has challenged things.”