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Cities should have more input into the police budgets they pay for


Opinion: Contrary to what lots of people suppose, the town does not have the ultimate say over the police price range. … I discover indicators of a political shift.

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An off-the-cuff observer of Vancouver City Council’s spat over the police division price range may declare the police the decisive winner after the town was ordered to place a further $5.7 million into this yr’s price range.

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But, as a metropolis councillor on the entrance traces, I’ve to say that this battle is way from over. In reality, I’m seeing indicators of a reversal not far forward.

This saga started in December 2020 when metropolis council, dealing with a COVID-induced income shortfall, determined to freeze the 2021 police price range. But, opposite to what lots of people suppose, the town doesn’t have the ultimate say over the police price range.

According to provincial legal guidelines, the Vancouver Police Board, which oversees the police division, has the best to attraction the town’s price range selections to the province’s director of police providers. In this case, Wayne Rideout, who’s a former RCMP officer, then employed two consultants, one a former police officer, to analyze. Rideout made a advice to Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth, who concurred that the town should pay the additional $5.7 million that the police needed.

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So, a triumvirate of the police division, the police board and police providers determined that the town needed to pay the extra cash.

My place is that the town ought to have discovered a method to refuse to pay the $5.7 million, even maybe looking for a court docket order overruling it. When my movement failed, I provided an modification expressing council’s opposition — a minimum of in precept: “Council request the mayor write a letter to Minister Farnworth seeking clarification about whether municipalities have any role in overseeing police budgets that they pay for, or whether they are simply a rubber stamp, and if they are not a rubber stamp, how municipalities can have input into police budgets.”

To my shock, that handed. Although the bulk didn’t need a showdown with the province, they did need to understand how the town can have extra enter into police budgets.

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That is what metropolis residents need. Back in 2020, after practically 400 folks signed as much as communicate to my movement referred to as “Decriminalizing Poverty,” council voted to assist changing police responses with community-led providers when coping with homelessness, drug use, psychological well being, and intercourse work.

Some police work is coping with psychological well being and homelessness points when different community-led responses can be extra acceptable and even safer.

Some police work is expounded to drug use. But this drawback could possibly be near eradicated if the province would scale up the protected provide that individuals who use medicine and public well being specialists search.

Housing and psychological well being are provincial tasks. Therefore, it’s outrageous the province comes alongside and tells the town that it should pay for a police response as an alternative of a community-led response.

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This is the place I discover indicators of a political shift.

Other councillors made amendments that additionally handed. One requested the mayor to request extra provincial funding in applications and providers that will lower the necessity for and prices of policing, together with investments in psychological well being, restorative justice, and reasonably priced and supportive housing.

Another councillor requested council to vote in favour of asking Farnworth “whether investments that the city makes to reduce homelessness, support residents who are struggling with poverty or mental health, and fund peer-led community safety initiatives, are understood by the province to be investments in public safety, and to clarify whether the city has the authority to choose to invest more in these services as an alternative to a police-centric approach, with the goal of having this alternative services replace calls to police.”

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Farnworth, an astute politician who’s delicate to altering political winds, can also be the deputy premier and an influential member of the NDP authorities.

I hope he’s going to agree that we’re at an important turning level — a crossroads — and Vancouver City Council is beginning to level the way in which.

Jean Swanson is a Vancouver metropolis councillor.


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