A new report submitted to the Vancouver Police Board today highlights the Vancouver Police Department’s (VPD) growing funding challenges to meet its growing scope of operations.
The police department’s budget for 2016 is currently pegged at $259,529,595, which accounts for about 20 per cent of the City of Vancouver’s entire operational budget for the year. The report notes that this is a $1.94-million increase from the 2015 budget, with most of this going towards wage and benefit increases as stipulated in previous collective agreements. Benefits and pension have risen at a rate much higher than inflation, according to the report.
At the same time, City Hall has requested that the force find savings of 0.6 per cent – or about $1.4 million – but the VPD has not submitted its savings proposals as it will only result in the elimination or reduction of service. Recent budgets have not included inflation provisions for non-salary operational costs.
“With limited new funding and external budget drivers affecting the delivery of police service, VPD Management is constantly reviewing priorities and reallocating resources to meet service demands,” reads the report.
In recent years, there have also been a growing number of establishments in Gastown. In order to ensure public safety, the area requires more police presence given the area’s changing scene, but it must do so within existing funding limitations.
Expanded police work in dealing with individuals that have mental illness and additional resources for keeping up with the latest forensic video and technological evidence standards are other costs not accounted for.
Over the coming fiscal cycle, the provincial government will also be limiting its contributions for DNA analysis services. This will place a greater burden on the budgets of local police forces and municipal governments.
The 2016 budget also does not account for any contingencies for extra policing costs for large-scale events that attract crowds from across the Lower Mainland. This includes the Stanley Cup Playoffs and large protests like Oppenheimer Park, May Day, and 420 Cannabis Day. The Occupy Vancouver protests at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2011 cost the municipal government $981,103, with $590,000 going towards the police.
Earlier this year, the police warned that event organizers could be billed for the policing costs of unsanctioned events.
Global factors and “situational challenges” are also placing further strain on the police force’s ability to ensure public order within existing resources.
“Additionally, global trends and events such as the worldwide extremist threat level, highly technical cybercrime, as well as a web of international organized crime and gang activities places further strain on VPD resources and necessitate increasing deployments for large events, protests, and demonstrations,” the report adds.