Last year, the Mob Museum—aka the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement—opened in downtown Las Vegas.
The $42-million project became an instant tourist attraction, cashing in on memories of when the Mafia ruled Nevada.
But by the 1980s and 1990s, the casinos in the desert had been taken over by publicly traded corporations run by CEOs with a much keener business sense.
As a result, the revenue from gambling rose astronomically, making Las Vegas one of the fastest growing communities in the United States.
These casino-industry technocrats with their MBAs were far more adept at picking gamblers' pockets than the Mob ever was.
VPD history also celebrated
At the risk of being flippant, there's a parallel with what's taken place in our city.
We have our own tourist attraction celebrating our grittier history.
It enables participants to experience what it was like to be a cop in the 1920s in a city festering with sex, drugs, booze, and organized crime.
The old flatfeet in the VPD in those days were usually a blue-collar lot.
The first chief, John Stewart, was a night watchman. All the way into the 1970s and 1980s, most Vancouver police officers were tall white males with a Grade 12 education.
Former chiefs like Ray Canuel and Terry Blythe rose up through the ranks, whereas another former chief, Jamie Graham, was recruited from the RCMP, where he headed the Surrey detachment.
Changes under Jamie Graham
Graham's five-year term from 2002 to 2007 was marked by a dramatic change, which had its origins in the short tenure of Bruce Chambers as chief in the 1990s.
Chambers promoted better-educated and more progressive cops such as Kim Rossmo and Kash Heed. That caused a bit of a backlash among the old guard, resulting in Blythe taking over, with John Unger as a key deputy.
Rossmo was given his comeuppance by Unger, but the pattern was already clear. University graduates were on the ascendancy in the VPD.
Even though Graham was an old-school cop like Blythe, his reign resulted in the rise of some well-educated officers to high positions.
Jim Chu's MBA comes in handy
The current chief, Jim Chu, has an MBA from UBC, a bachelor's degree of business administration from SFU, and he graduated from the FBI National Institute.
Deputy chief Doug LePard has a bachelor's degree in criminology from SFU and has written several papers for the VPD about the workforce. He's also prepared written arguments for resources that the department needs to get the job done.
In addition, LePard is a recognized international expert on stalking offences.
These guys prefer policing with their brains—and that means they're very good at securing resources from Vancouver City Hall.
Or to put it another way, the VPD brass has become very adept at picking the pockets of taxpayers to beef up the size of the department.
Golden age of police budgets
As libraries and parks and recreation endured tough financial times in the early 21st century, the VPD consistently enjoyed big funding increases leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Even though the Games went off without a hitch, there haven't been any budgetary reductions since then.
This is even though TransLink has created its own sizeable police force, with many officers deployed in Vancouver.
The technocrats in the VPD, like their brethren in charge of publicly traded casino companies, are far better than their predecessors at generating additional revenue.
This year's total Vancouver police budget only shows a 0.9 percent rise. Translated into dollars and cents, it's a $2.1-million increase to $234.9 million.
But that's misleading. A footnote below the ledger reveals that the "total operating expenditure growth rate would be 3.2% for Vancouver Police" after taking into account wage adjustments that have not been included in the operating statement.
These adjustments are a result of contracts expiring; the projected rise is based on increases aligned to CUPE rates. But the police might do better than that in arbitration.
Parks and recreation is only on tap for a 2.2 percent increase—from $105.9 million to $108.2 million.
The library budget is slated to rise by 2.7 percent—from $42.9 million to $44 million.
Blowback from activists
Why the larger police budget increase was concealed in a footnote is anyone's guess.
But it hasn't escaped the attention of some Downtown Eastside activists.
Tomorrow (December 17) at 11:30 a.m., members of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users will hold a protest at Vancouver City Hall to register their opposition to increasing the VPD's budget. The demonstration takes place in advance of council's vote.
The activists object to what they call "mining the Downtown Eastside for crime", claiming that a large police presence criminalizes residents for petty offences such as jaywalking, spitting, vending, and littering.
Tickets generate revenue for the city, some of which flows back into the Vancouver Police Department. The same is true of tickets given to cyclists and drivers of motor vehicles.
By voting on the city budget a week before Christmas, council can be confident that many middle-class voters will be too distracted to notice the methods employed by police-department technocrats to secure more resources.
But it seems that the city's poorer residents are starting to pay attention.
That could be a harbinger of things to come.