The Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board’s 2022 provisional budget is 7.05 per cent higher compared to 2021 with pay raises and additional resources driving the increased price tag.
Pay increases for the Victoria department account for just shy of $1,621,000, while new resources come in at a cost of $1,088,525.
“We appreciate that the increase is higher than ideal – particularly in the area of labour costs,” the budget overview states.
Police salaries are up 3.8 per cent in the draft budget. The proposal claims the wage levels will allow the department to remain competitive, attract recruits and maintain wage parity.
The requested additional resources include six new officers and some civilian positions. Three of those officers will be dedicated to the co-responder team – costing $446,233 next year – which Police Board lead co-chair Lisa Helps said will have officers in plainclothes and be accompanied by a psychiatric nurse. The three other officers include a cultural liaison position, an assertive community treatment officer, and one assigned to cybercrime.
“This budget reflects the realities that our communities are facing with police left to pick up the pieces of a health system that doesn’t meet the needs of our most marginalized residents,” the Victoria mayor said in a release.
Police overtime is tallied at about $3,315,000 for 2022, which is up 17 per cent from the 2021 budget and down about $10,000 from the total 2020 cost. The units with the largest earmarked amounts are the Emergency Response Team ($400,000) and patrol ($1.2 million). Both figures are an increase of at least $250,000 from the 2021 budget but are lower than overtime pay doled out to the units in 2020.
The budget proposal states the Emergency Response Team and public safety unit overtime increases are “due to the combined impact of increased sheltering spaces and increased complexity and frequency of protests.”
Both councils highlighted high-priority areas during budget consultations. Victoria wants more community policing to “create relationships and break down stereotypes.” Investigation and prevention of violent and sexual crimes are also a priority focus. Council identified improving equity, diversity and breaking down cultural barriers, and addressing racism and discrimination in policing as high priorities.
Esquimalt council’s priority is making police presence more visible through more bike and beat patrols and a higher frequency of police vehicles. Council considers the higher visibility of police will deter traffic issues and help with the level of petty crime.
Each council will deliberate and make decisions on the budget in their respective budget processes in late 2021 and early 2022.