BC government increases province-wide police funding by $230 million

Nov 24 2022, 2:42 am

Premier David Eby has announced another major policy measure dealing with public safety, just days after being sworn into office.

Over the next three years, the provincial government will spend $230 million to increase funding for police departments in urban, rural, and remote communities.

This funding is intended to boost specialized units and rural police forces as a key strategy to help improve public safety issues, and reduce public disorder and crime.

Eby notes this is part of his multi-faceted Safer Communities Action Plan, and it includes funding to provide support to prosecutors and probation officers when it comes to dealing with high-risk violent offenders.

“Everyone deserves to feel safe, and my government is working on every front to protect our communities and make them stronger,” said Eby in a statement.

“As part of our Safer Communities Action Plan, we will help ensure that the RCMP can operate to its full capability to keep people safe. The actions today will help stabilize policing and provide our provincial police force with the staff resources they need to address public safety concerns head on.”

It is anticipated the new provincial funding will help fill long-standing vacancies in rural communities, allow provincially-funded regional RCMP units to reach their fully authorized staffing levels of over 2,600 officers, and help hire additional officers in major crimes sections, sexual exploitation of children units, anti-money laundering, and the BC Highway Patrol.

“Sustained core funding will provide a strong foundation for police resources, enabling the police to focus on violent crimes and other pressing public safety issues, while also actioning the implementation of the Safer Communities Action Plan and other public safety initiatives,” said Mike Farnworth, the BC minister of public safety and solicitor general.

While the provincial government has indicated it supports Mayor Ken Sim’s ABC Vancouver party’s public safety strategy of hiring 100 additional Vancouver Police Department (VPD) officers and 100 Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) mental health nurses, it is unclear whether this support will be associated with forthcoming provincial funding to cover at least a portion of the City of Vancouver’s increased operating costs.

On Tuesday, City Council approved the 100/100 police officer and mental health nurse strategy, with up to $16 million in the City’s 2023 operating budget to be set aside for the initiative. This includes up to $8 million for the VPD officers, and up to another $8 million for the VCH nurses.

It should be noted that the cost of healthcare professionals is typically a provincial responsibility.

The $8 million cost for the VPD officers represents a partial annual allocation, as it is expected to take some time to ramp up to the full complement of 100 additional officers. The VPD estimates the full annual cost of employing 100 additional officers and 20 supporting civilian staff is $15.7 million.

Policing is of course also a major issue in the City of Surrey. Last week, Surrey City Council approved a direction to pause the expansion of the Surrey Police Services (SPS), and revert to the Surrey RCMP for the municipal government’s policing needs.

During the civic election campaign, Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke campaigned on the promise of keeping the RCMP, and increasing the number of officers serving the city by at least 100 over four years.

“We wholeheartedly welcome this unprecedented multi-year investment in the provincial RCMP budget, as it will have a direct impact on delivering public safety to the communities we proudly serve,” said deputy commissioner Dwayne McDonald, the commanding officer of the BC RCMP in Surrey.

“This commitment from the provincial government provides funding that addresses a number of growing financial pressures and ensures that key areas within our provincial business line, such as core policing, investigative services, emergency deployments, specialized provincial units and programs, proactive community outreach, and training will receive critical support. The funding increase also signals a strong commitment to our police officers and employees who work tirelessly to keep our communities safe.”

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