Despite lengthy discussions about policing models at Thurday’s committee meeting, Victoria council won’t make a decision about exploring frameworks for policing alternatives until the June 25 council meeting.
A motion presented by Coun. Sarah Potts, Coun. Marianne Alto and Coun. Jeremy Loveday – members of the City’s Community Wellness Task Force (CWTF) – recommends staff begin researching alternative models for more holistic outreach services in response to mental health and addictions issues in the city.
During a June 18 Committee of the Whole meeting, Alto called the motion the “culmination of a very long journey” and noted that discussions on the matter started in 2015.
“Currently, for a whole variety of horrific reasons, and particularly with the activities in the U.S. – around the world really including in our own communities – there sits before us both a tragedy and an opportunity to actually move forward on some of the work we’ve been contemplating for five years,” Alto said. “I think it’s clear now that across the spectrum of the community, there’s an appetite to have a conversation that speaks specifically to whether or not there are better ways for us to respond to community crises.”
The CWTF has been working on alternative models since the beginning of the term, but Thursday’s discussion came on the heel of continent-wide protests to systemic racism and police violence, sparking demands from many to reform and defund police departments.
The motion also recommended the City work with the province to establish an alternative response to policing mental health and additions – and as a program is developed, “continually investigate reallocating funding from other departments historically involved in the municipal response to mental health, homelessness and problematic substance use.”
Potts referred to the 170 B.C. overdose deaths in May.
“Over the last few months, the cracks in our system have really been showing,” she said. “They’ve always been there, but it feels like now, we just can’t look away. We have to be doing someting different and the response from the community really signals that people want an opportunity to imagine something better for eachother.”
The final motion tasks City of Victoria staff with creating a report for council “on how to develop a framework for an accessibly, cullturally safe and approproate alternative response model” in time for 2021 budget deliberations. Funding for the project is proposed to come from the remaining CWTF budget.
The motion appears for a potential final vote June 25.
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