Officers at the Victoria Police Department often work overtime, and in a department with a full staff of 249 officers, that cost adds up.
Through a freedom of information request put forward by the Grumpy Taxpayer$, a local spending watchdog, it was discovered that between 2014 and 2018 the average cost of overtime hours sits around $1.2 million, with the highest spike in 2016 at $1,478,600.
“[That’s] almost four per cent of the total annual budget for salaries,” said Stan Bartlett, chair of the Grumpy Taxpayer$ in an emailed statement. “‘Will the hiring of six additional sworn officers in September decrease the overtime bill, and if so, by how much?”
While the Victoria Police Department was approved for six more officers in an appeal to the Police Services Division, these officers are not likely to make a difference in overtime costs in 2019 since they will be hired and begin training at the Police Academy in September and not graduate until May 2020.
In fact, overtime costs will likely go even higher for 2019 since 41 officers are off either on sick leave, stress leave, injury recovery or parental leave, something which Chief Const. Del Manak said is not the norm.
“We’re watching the trend … it’s a combination of everything,” Mank said. “We always are aware of how much money we spend on our overtime line item in our budget.”
Manak said overtime costs are made up of four categories. The first is statutory holiday overtime, something he said was hard to avoid.
“We go down to minimum strength for statutory holidays to try to save as much money as we can, but I have to have police officers working,” Manak said.
The second category is for court overtime, when police officers have to testify in court on their day off.
The third is categorized as “extended tour of duty,” and refers to times when officers come across a new situation, such as an impaired driver or domestic violence call, near the end of their shift.
“They need to continue that investigation because you can’t pass it off halfway into it,” Manak explained.
Lastly, and the one most drastically affected by staff shortages, are “call outs,” when front line officers are called to work overtime when minimum staffing requirements aren’t met.
“We are always looking at each of those four areas and seeing if there are any pre-planned overtimes that we can avoid,” Manak said, adding that schedules are continually shifted and efforts are made to minimize overtime in court.
“It’s just a thing about policing— it’s dynamic, it’s complex. It’s not like a widget factory where I can turn the press off on a stat holiday or that I can slow it down and need less people on an assembly line. Policing is one of those things where there’s more demands, more complexity and it’s creating even more pressures for us.”
The Victoria Police Department is currently working with the Victoria Police Board to finalize its 2020 budget proposal.