Councillor Jean Swanson’s motion for reallocating police budgets to reinvest in communities is on the agenda for the July 21st, 2020, meeting of City Council. The motion was originally introduced on July 7th; however, due to time constraints, it was put off until July 21st. Over 200 speakers had signed up, and now the speakers list is open again.
The full title of the motion is Decriminalizing Poverty and Supporting Community-led Safety Initiatives. The motion points out that the VPD budget has grown by over $100 million in the last 10 years. The VPD budget is spent partly to respond to homelessness, mental health and substance use. The motion seeks to identify the costs of such items in the policing budget, and to explore how this could be retargeted to community-led initiatives.
Speakers can sign up by using the online registration form or by sending an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org (ask to speak to Motion B3, Decriminalizing Poverty and Supporting Community-led Safety Initiatives). Additional information can be obtained by phone 604.829.4323. Requests to speak need to be made before 8:30 am (of July 21st). The speakers will likely be heard at a subsequent committee meeting, if the majority of Council decide to refer this item. If there is a referral, speakers then may be heard on Wednesday, July 22nd, or at another time that Council chooses.
More information on Councillor Swanson’s motion is available on the COPE website: Defund the VPD, Reinvest in Communities
With respect to relative policing costs in Vancouver, an open question is this: Are we over-policed? It might be worth looking for comparisons with other cities that operate under similar legal systems, namely, other Canadian cities with a comparable size. For example, compare the police budget of $281.2 million for Mississauga, ON (population 721,599) to $340.4 million for Vancouver (pop. 631,486). This amounts to $59.1 million less spent on policing in another city with approximately 90,113 more residents, as per the 2016 Census. Mississauga also polices the largest airport in Canada (Pearson). To put this another way, Mississauga’s policing cost is 82.6% of Vancouver’s total. Adjusted for population, it would be 72.2% of Vancouver’s total (or about $94.3 million less). To bring VPD budget to this same level, a 27.7% cut could be administered. This move would potentially free up significant revenues to reallocate.
Other Canadian cities that may be suitable as comparables include Quebec City, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Surrey. As for looking at per capita figures, the City of Toronto had a $1.076B policing budget (pop. 2,731,571); adjusted for Vancouver’s population this would make a total of $248.75M.
Chief Palmer and the VPD rejected the City’s call for a 1% budget cut (CTVNews, June 5, 2020). If the City just transfers less money to the VPD account, then realistically what can Palmer do? Should priorities in the post-COVID world be rearranged? How has ‘business as usual’ worked out so far in Vancouver? How has the VPD fared in fighting corruption and white-collar crime? Can some of the resources spent on policing in Vancouver be reallocated to achieve more benefit to society?
B. Council Member’s Motions
3. Decriminalizing Poverty and Supporting Community-led Safety Initiatives