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Vancouver police board approves VPD budget, sets up fight at council

Board unanimous in support for $325 million police budget
Frank Chong (middle) and the Vancouver Police Board approved Thursday a $325 million budget for the Vancouver Police Department.
The Vancouver Police Board approved a 2022 operating budget Thursday for the Vancouver Police Department that is $3.9 million more than recommended by city hall’s finance team, setting up another battle with city council next month.

The board unanimously approved a $325 million budget instead of the city staff recommendation of $321 million, which is an amount in line with council’s stated goal to keep a property tax hike in 2022 at five per cent or less.

Council has the final say on the VPD’s budget and is scheduled to vote Dec. 7 on the city’s overall operating budget — worth $1.7 billion — after hearing from citizens and senior managers, including Police Chief Adam Palmer.

The board’s decision Thursday came without any debate.

Board member Frank Chong, who has a background in finance, acknowledged there was “probably more opportunities for us to continue to be more efficient in our policing resources.” At the same time, he added, the department hasn’t kept up with the demands of policing.

“We are still seeing shortfalls when it comes to our investment in resources — long term,” he said, referring to the previous council’s decision to add officers and civilians to the department each year, which have been stalled because of cuts.

“However, I think that we need to recognize that there [are] certainly pressures that are facing the city at this particular moment, and I think that it's important for us to be collectively mindful of this.”

$325 million is 'minimum budget' they can work with: VPD report

The $325 million police budget includes increases for fixed, contractual and third-party costs, with the department saying in a report “this is the minimum budget to allow the VPD to maintain the current existing service level of public safety for the people and businesses in Vancouver.”

Deputy Chief Steve Rai told the board the department is on track to run a deficit of $7.2 million by year’s end, with $5.6 million of that connected to council’s decision in December 2020 not to fully fund the VPD’s 2021 budget.

That decision is under appeal to Wayne Rideout, B.C.’s director of police services, who is expected to rule in January.

Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung, who is married to a Vancouver police officer, attended the police board meeting. She said by telephone after the decision that she supported a $325 million budget for the VPD.

“Based on what I'm hearing from the public, and what we’ve seen in the civic satisfaction surveys, safety and crime is an issue in a number of specific neighbourhoods,” said Kirby-Yung, citing violent shoplifters downtown as an example. “So I think public sentiment would like to see public safety maintained.”

Kirby-Yung dismissed critics who would conclude her support is solely connected to her husband’s profession.

“Because I am married to a police officer, I think I'm probably one of the most informed councillors in terms of what's going on day-to-day, and the types of calls that members are dealing with,” she said.

“I have the benefit of not only having that perspective in terms of knowing what calls officers deal with every day, but I also have the councillor perspective of hearing from residents. So like any resident in Vancouver, I have the same interest in ensuring we've got an appropriate level of public safety in the city.”

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