The Victoria Police Department is seeking a nearly $2.5-million budget increase that includes hiring six new police officers and increased funding to cover for officers called away to assist with high-risk calls.
The proposed hires are the biggest new expense in the draft $55-million budget presented to city council on Tuesday. The price tag is $870,000 to hire two civilian employees in addition to the six officers, along with the related training and equipment.
The increased ask from the City for “special duties” funding amounts to $160,000, which police say is needed due to an increased number of violent confrontations and more injuries to police officers, which leave gaps in patrol shifts as officers are called to provide emergency response.
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After the presentation, VicPD Chief Del Manak told the News the department projects the number of calls where specialized officers and negotiators are deployed to high-risk incidents, many involving people barricading themselves with a weapon, is expected to be more than 40 per cent higher in 2017 over 2016. In many cases, alcohol or drugs are involved, or mental illness is a factor, he said.
“There are a lot of people in our community who need supports,” Manak said.
“There’s a gap where the needs of these people are not being addressed … and they’re trying to do the best that they can. But they have behavioural issues and they’re perhaps prone to violence, they don’t have the conflict management skills that most people have, and as a result they spiral into a crisis.”
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Officers being called in for special duties accounts for a high proportion of overtime hours, he said, after payment for statutory holidays, and when officers testify in court or are held over from a call.
Police are also considering hiring an additional six staff members – not included in this budget figure – at another $400,000 per year. They also are continuing the mental health integration pilot with an increased budget around $14,000.
Overall, the increase in budget for policing amounts to roughly 4.8 per cent, or approximately $2.5 million.