A commentary by a former member of the Victoria Police Department.
Since my retirement as a police officer I have tried to keep my opinions to myself, however the recent decision by Victoria council regarding the VicPD budget has appalled and offended me, both as a retired cop and a Victoria taxpayer.
I have been a resident of Victoria for 48 years, and for 25 of those years I was a Victoria police officer. I was extremely proud to serve in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Victoria was safe, clean, and vibrant. We were leaders in the Canadian law enforcement community with cutting-edge advancements in policing and proactive initiatives.
You had to look hard to see anything that was unpleasant, dangerous or the least bit concerning.
Sure, we had our problems, drug dealing and substance abuse has always been an issue and we had violent incidents from time to time, but never in my time as a cop downtown was it as bad as it is today.
The state of danger and decay in downtown Victoria today has nothing to do with the competency or professionalism of the VicPD, but everything to do with the bungling and lack of interest in public safety by an inept city council for the past eight to 10 years.
Under former Mayor Lisa Helps and her councils, and their ignorance and indifference for public safety, we have seen millions spent on pet projects and other non-essential expenditures, while the city suffered from the onset of amplified downtown issues that could not be managed by the limited resources of our police department.
With this current police budget refusal, it’s clear that it will not be any different under Mayor Marianne Alto.
It is all good to paint crosswalks in paisley patterns, allow street patios that rob the city of parking revenues, and install enough bike lanes to eventually choke out any vehicular traffic, but what’s the point if no one comes downtown anymore?
Policing in Victoria has become increasingly difficult and dangerous with the proliferation of mental health related issues. The province bears some of this responsibility, but with council’s rejection of the police board’s request for more resources, the management of these issues will become even more unworkable.
As it is, Chief Del Manak has had to shut down some of his very best and most effective units, including the police mountain bikes and beat cops.
Due to the ever-increasing pressure on VicPD officers, there are dozens of officers off-duty with occupational stress injuries (PTSD), and a lot of that stress doesn’t always come from the incidents the police deal with, it’s also the unseen and unspoken stress of knowing that they don’t have the support of their employer, the City of Victoria.
VicPD cannot retain staff and officers if the City of Victoria allows it to become a place that no one will want to work because of the untenable working conditions.
I am curious whether the City of Victoria has considered how the police department can be expected to serve the residents of Victoria adequately with the massive increase in density that they are endorsing and allowing.
Everywhere you look there are high-rise condos going up and yet there is no increase in essential services to ensure that these new residents will be safe and secure.
With random violent attacks in downtown, thousands of people being housed in “temporary” unsuccessful supportive housing units, increased traffic congestion and theft from retailers at an all-time high, public safety is on the minds of everyone it seems except those at the council table.
There are always going to be budget issues and cuts to city departments, but it is time for council to acknowledge that without sufficient police resources there will not be adequate security and safety for our citizens and the millions of important visitors that come to enjoy our city each year.
Cut other budgets, but not the most critical one! All the pretty pet projects and frivolous expenditures mean nothing if the city is a dirty, dangerous ghost town that no one feels safe in.
My fellow citizens and my former VicPD colleagues deserve better, and we can’t afford to let this mayor and council continue to ignore the critical issue of public safety.