Some members of Victoria’s city council want less criticism from the Victoria Police Department if they approve the proposed 2020 VicPD budget.
In a special committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, council discussed several budget items, including the $297,000 Victoria would have to pay for four full time special constables as part of a police pilot project.
Council has also been working at approving an overall police budget of $58.2 million for 2020, of which the City pays $49.6 million while the Township of Esquimalt pays the difference. This is a 4.3 per cent increase since 2019, compared to a city inflation goal of 3.4 per cent.
It was during these discussions that Coun. Jeremy Loveday brought forward what he called a “pointed” question to VicPD Chief Const. Del Manak, who was present via telephone.
“The increase requests year after year are more than the inflation plus one per cent that the city has committed to; in spite of this, Chief, you on many occasions have criticized the council in media for approving a police budget last year that wasn’t quite as large as requested,” Loveday said.
“In the media this is often portrayed that this decision is making the community unsafe. … So my question to you is, if VicPD is granted this full budget request, will you stop criticizing council in the media?”
Manak replied saying that the comments were “off-base.”
“I’ve been factual and always spoken highly that council has tough decisions to make, not just on the police budget but on running the city,” Manak said. “I’ve always been respectful. This is my community as much as it’s yours and I look forward to working with council as I always have in the past in ensuring that our communities are kept safe and that we do the best job we can with the money available.”
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps echoed Loveday’s question, saying that even if Manak’s intentions hadn’t been ill-intended, the public perception was criticism of council’s priorities.
“No one’s making motions to remove anything from the police budget, and I think what council wants is some assurances that if this passes as is, if you’ll thank Victoria council for understanding the pressures of the police, change the narrative a little bit,” Helps said.
Manak said that as much as he’d appreciate an approved police budget, he wouldn’t alter his speech.
“I would be very pleased if council supported the police budget, but I’ll continue to stand up and be honest and speak the truth if there’s any misinformation, and that’s never directed at council or never a personal comment.”
Coun. Geoff Young was most opposed to the propositions, saying he couldn’t just leave them on the table.
“I do not wish to be associated with a comment that comes from this council that says ‘we’ve given you the money, be grateful now shut your mouth and don’t criticize us’,” he said.
In the end, Loveday reshaped his statement.
“I’m not asking the chief or any members of public not to criticize council; we’re a public body and we get criticized often, and I think that’s fair game and healthy for democracy,” he said. “What I’m looking for is to not have criticism about the budget if we’re approving the budget.”
Council left the comments there, and moved forward to next budget items, tentatively approving the four special constables without adding any additional motions.