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Vancouver police budget heading towards $500M by 2028

Police Chief Adam Palmer: 'People get great value for their money.'
The Vancouver Police Department is seeking an operating budget for 2024 worth $415.9 million and expect almost half a billion dollars will be needed to operate the department in 2028.

The Vancouver Police Department — which is operating this year with a $373.5-million budget — predicts it will need an operating budget of close to $500 million by 2028, according to a new report released this week.

The prediction of $486 million is based on estimated salary and payroll benefit increases of 1,400-plus officers, covering attrition from retirements and the financial impact of hiring 100 new cops over the next couple of years.

Potential future collective agreement wage increases, anticipated E-Comm levy hikes and minor inflation adjustments for some non-salary items are other factors driving the need for bigger budgets.

Wage settlements alone from ratified or arbitrated collective agreements continue to grow at a rate faster than inflation, according to the report that went before the Vancouver Police Board Thursday at its public meeting.

In defending the annual increases, Police Chief Adam Palmer said after the meeting that the department’s budget has seen the same percentage increase as the overall city budget for 30 years.

“So if you go back to 1990 and you look at the trajectory, it's always been 20 to 21 per cent, which is what it is today, and what it will be in 2024 and I'm sure in 2028,” Palmer said.

Added Palmer: “The budget in any public sector organization over a five-year period is going to increase. Vancouver is a big city. It costs a lot of money to keep Vancouver safe. That's what it costs and people get great value for their money.”

Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer at Thursday's Vancouver Police Board meeting. Photo Mike Howell

Special budget meeting Dec. 5

At the meeting, the board approved a proposed VPD operating budget for 2024 of $415.9 million, which is roughly $6.1 million more than the $409.7 million budget supported by the city’s finance team.

It’s now up to city council to decide what the final operating budget should be for 2024.

A special budget meeting is scheduled for Dec. 5, where council will hear from Palmer on what’s driving the need to increase the VPD budget next year.

In the last budget go-round, council gave the VPD a $28.9-million increase, which included funds promised by Mayor Ken Sim and his ABC Vancouver colleagues to begin hiring 100 new officers and 20 staff for the department.

The report discussed by the board Thursday provided a breakdown of the extra $6.1 million requested by the VPD, with the policing of protests in 2023 accounting for almost $1 million of the cost.

As Glacier Media previously reported, protests are predicted to reach 1,000 or more in Vancouver by year’s end. The VPD has requested $969,468 to cover costs and wants that money to be built into the budget every year.

Truth and Reconciliation Day

Other significant costs identified include:

• $745,269 to cover incremental cost of the jail nursing and physician contract.

• $670,000 to cover statutory pay for officers working on National Truth and Reconciliation Day.

• $659,400 to cover cost related to coroners’ inquests for Const. Nicole Chan, who committed suicide while off-duty, and Myles Gray, who died after an interaction with police.

“At this time, incremental annual costs from three of the eight recommendations from the Chan inquiry can be determined and included mandatory psychological clinical interviews and medical tests for recruits, mandatory psychological check-in with a psychologist for all officers and enhanced respectful workplace in-person training,” the report said.

• $507,663 to cover the incremental cost of upgrading the HVAC system and lighting at the Vancouver jail.

• $307,000 to cover the full cost of implementing a body-worn camera pilot program, which is supposed to begin before the end of the year and run until June.

Glacier Media reported Nov. 22 that a separate report going to council next week shows the VPD will run a $3.6-million deficit this year. Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services has projected a $3.3-million deficit.

Staff have recommended the city cover the costs as “one-time adjustments.”

Israel-Hamas conflict

Asked about the deficit, Palmer pointed to the significant increase in protests, policing costs related to the Israel-Hamas conflict and the continued work of officers escorting city crews to keep people from pitching tents and building structures on East Hastings Street.

Earlier this year, the city’s Auditor General Mike Macdonell began a “risk management” audit of the VPD, which is expected to be released in mid-December. It is not to be confused with a financial audit.

“We do performance audits only [sometimes referred to as value-for-money or economy/efficiency/effectiveness],” Macdonell said in an email Thursday.

“Our first audit of VPD is focused on organizational risk management, sometimes referred to as enterprise-wide risk management. Because the audit is still in progress, there’s not much more I can say about it at this time.”

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