VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The Vancouver Police (VPD) board says it will not be making a one per cent cut to its budget as local politicians have asked for.
The decision is prompting concerns from two councillors about other departments that would have to cut even deeper as the city deals with pandemic-related financial challenges.
Every department in the city needs to do its part to cut costs, in the view of Coun. Pete Fry, who feels let down by VPD’s decision.
“The board’s inability to make a one per cent cut work is definitely going to come out of the pockets of other departments in the city,” says Fry.
He says, given council has already approved the police board’s budget, there’s nothing it can formally do until the next budget.
In a letter to council, the police board actually suggests part of why it can’t make cuts is due to demonstrations related to “recent tragic events in Minneapolis.”
"The [Vancouver Police] Board's inability to make a 1 percent cut work is definitely going to come out of the pockets of other departments in our city" — listen to @NEWS1130 as we hear from Councillors @PtFry & @christineeboyle about VPD not "doing their part" amid city cuts.
— Martin MacMahon (@martinmacmahon) June 5, 2020
Coun. Christine Boyle says because big events aren’t going ahead and nightclubs aren’t open, there were opportunities to find savings.
“Bars are closed, the Granville strip is closed, there aren’t big hockey games, there aren’t big concerts and festivals, we have almost no tourists in town,” says Boyle. “Of course it’s an operational decision for the police to be figuring out the need and weighing out all of these things, which is why council’s first move had been to ask them — you look at what you’re looking at, and come back to us with your recommendations of how you can pitch in.
“Because they declined to do that, it was on council to sort of pick a number that seemed reasonable to us and send it back their way to then make the next step of operational decisions.”
Both councillors acknowledge the pandemic has brought challenges for police in terms of property crime, but feel there were possible savings given major events aren’t going ahead.
“The city had to very painfully lay off 1,800 people,” says Boyle. “All of our senior staff at the city took a 10 per cent pay cut, as did mayor and council. So we’ve been making a number of very difficult budget decisions because of the financial pressures that we as a city are facing as a result of COVID-19, that cities across the country are facing as well … it’s about everyone, a little, doing their part.”
This request from council for the police board to cut one per cent from its budget came before the mass backlash following George Floyd’s deadly arrest in Minneapolis, which has prompted a movement from some activists to “defund” police departments throughout North America.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s office said Friday he was unavailable for comment.
NEWS 1130 has contacted the Vancouver Police Department and city to provide an opportunity for the board to provide further comment on its decision.
Last month, council passed a motion behind closed doors to cut the police department budget by one per cent and eliminate 2020 salary increases.
A one per cent cut of the overall budget works out to about $3.5 million.
Chief Adam Palmer estimated the combined measures will total an $8.5 million loss for the Vancouver Police Department.
The police cuts come as property crime increased in recent months.
The City is projecting a revenue loss of $152 million and it’s required, by law, to balance its books.
About 27 per cent of the City’s revenue is spent on police services.