A COPE council will “red circle” the budget of the Vancouver Police Department.
“That means we’re freezing it,” Tim Louis of the Coalition of Progressive Electors explained in a phone interview with the Straight.
Louis is a former chair of city council’s finance committee. He wants a seat again, and he’s one of eight candidates for council fielded by COPE for the November 15 municipal election.
“This is not going to mean the layoff of VPD officers,” Louis said. “If we red-circle their budget as a percentage of the city’s overall budget, it will shrink year over year.”
The VPD takes up 20 percent of the city’s $1-billion annual outlay, making it the single biggest departmental expense.
COPE’s platform calls for returning the police budget to levels before 2008, the year the present ruling Vision Vancouver party came to power. That’s about 17 percent of the city’s total operating budget.
“In a climate where the crime rate is dropping, it does not make sense to grow further the VPD budget,” Louis said.
Vision councillor Raymond Louie defended the increases in the police budget that his party oversaw in previous years. “Our citizens need to be kept safe,” Louie told the Straight at Vision’s campaign headquarters. “There’s a reason why Vancouver has the lowest crime rates and we don’t experience some of the challenges that other cities have.”
The VPD has an operating budget of $221 million this year. Under the then-ruling Non-Partisan Association, the city spent $189 million for policing services in 2007.
Although crime rates are down, Louie said the city needs a high level of police service because its population is growing. He added that Vancouver also draws people from other municipalities during events.
Cleta Brown, a council candidate for the Greens, indicated that her party wants to see the entire city-process budget opened up.
“We wouldn’t come out and say, ‘Oh, the police budget is wrong,’ or ‘The police budget is outrageous,’ because, really, we don’t have sufficient detail about it, and the councillors aren’t given enough information about a lot of areas of city expenditure, including the police department,” Brown told the Straight by phone. “And it’s such an important role that they [police] play that…it would be irresponsible to say, you know, cut it, or irresponsible to say give them whatever they ask for.”