The Vancouver Police Department has requested an operating budget for 2023 that totals $383 million and includes $15.7 million to hire 100 new officers and 20 “civilian professionals.”
The proposed budget, which is an increase of 11 per cent or $38.4 million over the 2022 budget, will go before the Vancouver Police Board Thursday (Nov. 24) for approval and then get forwarded to city council for a final decision.
The request for 100 new officers is connected to Mayor Ken Sim’s campaign promise to hire 100 officers and 100 mental health nurses over the next four years. Money for nurses would come from a separate budget.
Council was to debate a motion Tuesday afternoon that unlocks $4.5 million to begin the process to hire 100 officers, and another $1.5 million that would be available for Vancouver Coastal Health to hire the nurses.
How the $4.5 million fits in the proposed VPD budget — and how many officers that equates to — was unclear at press time.
Also unclear is how council can fund a $383 million police budget without cutting other services or cancelling any new initiatives. Council has its first public budget meeting scheduled for Nov. 29, but there are signs debate will be pushed to the spring.
The request from the VPD comes with the acknowledgement that the previous council approved a motion in April 2022 to limit the city’s 2023 property tax hike to no more than five per cent.
Based on that motion, city staff has told the VPD its budget request should be closer to $361 million, about $22 million less than what the department has proposed.
A report posted to the police board’s website Tuesday said the $361 million city-ordered budget “does not provide adequate funding for certain ongoing budget items, nor does it include funding for new initiatives to benefit the community and to generate internal operational and investigational effectiveness and efficiencies.”
Body-worn police cameras
New funding initiatives proposed by the VPD include:
• $747,500 for “digital evidence management system” licenses and cell phones.
• $415,500 for cell phones.
• $200,000 to run pilot project on police body-worn cameras.
• $83,000 to cover incremental operating costs in replacement of R.G. McBeath police boat.
• $250,000 for community policing centres.
• $395,000 for an increase to the Vancouver Police Board budget, which includes hiring a communications and community relations manager.
Other requests, which total $3.5 million and the VPD describes as adjustments to “underfunded budgets,” relate to collective agreements, overtime, statutory holiday pay, body armour, parking and software costs.
If the police board approves the VPD budget and council eventually does the same, adding 100 officers would bring the total number of cops working in the city to 1,448. The VPD says it takes approximately nine months for a new recruit to be deployed.
In December 2021, the previous council approved the VPD’s budget request and was obligated to add $15.7 million in arbitrated wage increases for officers, bringing the total gross dollar amount to $366.9 million, before expenditures.
Ken Sim endorsed by Vancouver Police Union
In December 2020, council decided to freeze the VPD’s budget, as it did with other departments to compensate for revenues lost during the first year of the pandemic. That freeze amounted to a $5.7 million loss for the VPD.
In March of this year, Wayne Rideout, B.C.’s director of police services, ruled the $5.7 million shouldn’t have been rejected by council. That money is built into the VPD’s 2023 budget request.
In October, Sim and seven of his ABC Vancouver council candidates were elected, giving the party a super majority on council. Sim and his running mates were endorsed by the Vancouver Police Union and focused their campaign on public safety.