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More police needed, but chief making do

Mar 09 2012

Victoria police Chief Jamie Graham says he could use another 55 officers, but, realizing money is tight, is prepared to make do with what he has.

"Despite considerable demands placed on us in terms of our criminal caseload and our calls for service, we are not asking for more people for 2012," Graham said.

Victoria police brass presented a status quo budget to councillors Thursday that calls for almost $1.4 million in additional money this year just to keep operations in Victoria and Esquimalt at the same level.

The 3.3 per cent requested budget increase, which, if approved by both councils, would take the total budget to just under $43 million from $41.6 million, is almost entirely eaten up by pay increases.

"This does mean I do not need more people, because I do. I need about 55 more police officers just to get us to the average for municipal police departments for this province," Graham said.

"While our crime rate is higher than I would like, the fiscal reality facing Victoria is not lost on us as we plan for the future. We are doing everything we can to find efficiencies and save money."

The department has 243 officers and 108 civilian support staff. Councillors were told salaries and benefits account for $1.1 million of the increase. The net increase in operating costs is $248,599.

Coun. Ben Isitt suggested the department take another look at its overtime costs, which are estimated at just over $2 million for the year, in an attempt to find savings.

Isitt cited the example of paying officers overtime to work late weekend shifts for the Late Night Great Night program, saying it would seem to make more sense to schedule regular patrols during those hours.

The suggestion did not get the support of other councillors.

Both Graham and department controller Scott Seivewright said overtime costs are already managed extremely closely and are not generally related to patrol costs.

Forty-three per cent of overtime is investigation related; 32 per cent goes to cover statutory holidays; 12 per cent is for people called in to meet shift minimums when people are sick; 10 per cent is for court costs and the rest is for training, Seivewright said.

"In an ideal world, we wouldn't have any overtime," Graham said. "We want our officers to work their shift - a 12-hour watch - and then go home and spend time with their families," he said.

Esquimalt picks up 15 per cent of the police budget and Victoria 85 per cent, based on property assessments.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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