Esquimalt’s mayor is pushing back against criticism from a Victoria police member union after the township voted against 10 additional hires this year for the amalgamated department.
“We are disappointed in the township, who repeatedly say they support our members,” the Victoria City Police Union said in a Wednesday release.
Esquimalt council on Monday rejected police budget requests, costing $150,000, to hire an additional six officers and four civilian positions. The union said “playing politics” has no place in policing. It also claimed the decision hampers enhancing staffing and stymies relief for the current police workforce.
Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, in a phone interview, made it clear that the township supports VicPD and said the department faces being in the middle of the disputed question: who should fund what?
“But the data is on Esquimalt’s side with regard to the fact that we are overpaying and we are subsidizing City of Victoria costs,” Desjardins said. She also asked if it’s fair for Esquimalt to be the only Greater Victoria municipality paying for the police response to protests in the capital.
Esquimalt’s falling crime rate and its crime severity index being much lower than Victoria’s are why Desjardins wants more discussions on reducing the township’s number of allocated officers. Esquimalt council is sympathetic to the challenges VicPD members face, the mayor said, but she added that no other municipality of comparable size is paying as much as they are – $8.4 million in 2021 – for policing.
“We all agree that Victoria needs those resources,” Desjardins said. “The best way for that to be improved is for the City of Victoria to take on the number of officers they need.”
The Victoria City Police Union, which represents more than 250 VicPD members, said the province forced the amalgamated department on the two jurisdictions, but B.C. has “mostly ignored the policing problems of the region” for almost two decades.
The current policing framework agreement between Victoria, Esquimalt and the police board will expire at the end of 2023. Desjardins said challenges arise from one police force dealing with two very different communities. Esquimalt has hired a consultant to gauge the community’s thoughts on police services and costs to inform how council should move forward.
With a provincial report highlighting how the township receives more officer resources than its crime rate requires, Desjardins said they would be happy to have Victoria absorb some of those excess services.
“We are well served by VicPD,” the mayor said. “The challenge of funding though has not and is not going away, and that is problematic.”
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