Introduction: Thank you Chief Constable Del Manak

Written by Harold McNeill on September 4th, 2019. Posted in Police Notebook, Editorials, Policing Reforms


Thank-you Chief Del Manak.
Along with your administrative staff and members, you have now taken ownership of challenges faced by VicPD and our Capital City. Don’t ever underestimate how important the step you have taken is in bringing about real change. It’s been over two decades since a Victoria Chief Constable pushed back against powerful backroom forces touting amalgamation as the only solution.

Introduction

This post serves to introduce both Chief Manak’s Transformation Report, as well as the broader discussion of policing in the CRD as presented in a recent four-part series Changing the way police do business.

While the Chief must cross many hurdles, he has taken the first step by asking his members and the citizens of Victoria to look inwards by defining what must be done if the force is to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

An initial move was made in the late 1980s and 90s, when another force insider, Chief Constable Douglas Richardson, and his immediate predecessor, worked to correct some long-standing deficiencies. Moving to the new police station on Caledonia was one giant step forward. However, following Richardson’s retirement in 1999, progress stalled for one simple reason – the voices of amalgamation took over City Hall and the Police Department.

Amalgamation or Bust

Since 2000, a succession of Police Chiefs (Battersill, Graham, and Elsner), and one particular Mayor, Dean Fortin, supported by the Times Colonist, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, Amalgamation Yes, and more recently, the Grumpy Taxpayers, have promoted amalgamation as the single solution to every problem faced by the VicPD.

A front-page TC article of today (September 4, 2019), titled, Province says no to regional police force, reads as a pro-amalgamation advertisement. Not a mention is made of what others in the region might think. Many Victoria media outlets often follow this path. By maintaining this narrow focus over the past two decades, the City of Victoria leaders, followed by Esquimalt, has allowed the VicPD to deteriorate to the level of desperation it has reached today. 

Some might go so far as to suggest those leaders charted a path of failure as the best means by which to bring about amalgamation. Over the years so much blame was being attached to others for every failure, this selffulfilling prophecy became reality for VicPD.

Can the new Chief change the narrative?

The second force insider to be promoted to Chief in the past sixty years, Chief Manak, has a better idea. Let’s make VicPD a great stand-alone force that can attract raw recruits and experienced personnel, a force where setting strategic goals actually means trying to achieve those goals and a force that others might want to follow.

I won’t deny the transformation document is a pretty gloomy, but at least the Chief is taking a leadership role by throwing down the gauntlet and saying ‘let’s get busy and fix this department and forget about what others are or are not doing.”  I think in the background, the Chief realizes integration, not amalgamation is the way to the future. Even the B.C. Solicitor General touches on this fact. It is only the folks in the City of Victoria who walk around wearing blinders.

In reading the fourteen recommendations, it’s clear the majority of items should have been part of the planning process as far back as the year 2000. Had that been done and acted upon, it’s likely the VicPD joint force of today, might not be in such dire straights. The force might even have achieved the majority of their 2015-2019 Strategic Planning goals such as becoming “leaders in developing shared strategies to enhance community safety.” Instead, Victoria and Esquimalt, along with their joint police force, face a crisis entirely of their own making.

In making statements about shortcomings, I do not include the rank and file, as they only followed directions dictated by their leaders. And, for the better part of the past two decades, they have been badly led. The old adage, ‘you go along to get along’ always played heavily among VicPD’s past three Chief’s. If the Mayor and other business leaders wanted amalgamation, then that would be the department mantra. The perfect storm came in the form of Mayor Dean Fortin and his sidekick, Chief Jamie Graham. (Ref Part II, Section 6).   Till now, that is.

Make no mistake, Chief Manak will be fighting a rear-guard action against powerful business and political interests in the City of Victoria. Those interests, whose quotes you read almost daily, might well think failure provides the best chance of getting the Province involved?

While a merger of police forces is their stated goal, that merger is just a means to an end. It makes no difference if it becomes messy or massively costly (both of which it will be) and that service will become more remote to other populations in the region (as it has in Esquimalt). That will be a small price to pay for gaining wider political control.

On this point, I was just alerted to a CFAX radio interview of Mayor Helps by Scott Weston (Sept. 4, 2019, 3:29 pm), regarding the Solicitor General’s letter advising that the Province had no intention of forcing police departments to amalgamate. To this Mayor Helps stated: “It’s not going to happen so we won’t have an amalgamated police force in this region. I don’t know if that is the best value for tax dollars or the best approach to public safety.”

The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Catherine Hold chimed in: “If we have a police chief saying he has a crisis on his hands, we have a city council asking for help, (Farnworth) needs to provide leadership. As soon as you talk about safety in the downtown core, it’s a regional issue,” adding that governments tend to respond to crises and she feels the city is on the cusp of a crisis.

Mayor Helps continued, it is Farnworth’s job to figure out how to most effectively create public safety across the province and she feels this a real opportunity to take leadership, “there is nothing can be done so we are stuck with the status quo.”

I encourage you to read the full article as the threats are crystal clear. I won’t go much beyond this other than to reiterate the fact that powerful forces within the City of Victoria may be well prepared to throw Chief Manak and his force under the bus in order to force the Province to intervene.

Hopefully, Chief Manak has the power and internal department support needed to help bring about internal changes that will stabilize the ship while planning for a successful future of VicPD as a stand-alone force. There are a great many things that can be done as outlined in the Four-part series on Change. Farnworth even supported the concept of integration. But first, the ship must be stabilized.

The Chief’s “To Do” List

You need only read the fourteen highlighted items to realize the current crisis revolves around staffing shortages (sworn officers and civilians). It goes much deeper, but the Chief needs to start somewhere and bulking up the force by making the suggested changes will certainly help.  As time moves on, other initiatives can be brought into play.

Stabilization does not necessarily mean hiring dozens of new staff (again as outlined in the four-part series), it’s more a matter of how existing resources are utilized and how strategic cuts can be made that will not cause the force to bleed out.

The Chief also needs the Police Board solidly behind him as he goes about the business of restating the goals and reforming the force. He is surrounded by good staff, many of whom have likely chafed at being boxed in for so long by the forces of amalgamation. They know they have good people and they know they can do a good job, they just need the support of City Hall and others in positions of influence.  I also suspect the Police Union will also be in favour of helping with the recovery.

While most in the CRD agree VicPD faces additional challenges as the core of one of the most popular cities in Canada, those very challenges also create dozens of opportunities not available to many other forces across the country.  I venture to say, a significant number of those forces, both RCMP and stand-alone, would jump at the chance of changing places with the VicPD.

At this point, I won’t spend time on each item as almost all revolve staffing shortages. However, the question remains, is VicPD seriously understaffed?  It does not appear so according to the figures from other forces across Canada. After reading the transformation summary, check out Appendix A.

Introduction to Series

Part I, Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation.
Part II, Comparing police cultures and implementing change
Part III, The past as a guide to the future
Part IV The integration of police services

The Transformation Summary:

#I Inadequate frontline staffing, exacerbated by staff shortages and increased workload and service demands, has resulted in a staffing deficit in frontline patrol assignments and an inability to meet the current and emerging needs and service demands. The current response is unsustainable, as it creates gaps in services and staff shortages in other areas.

#2 Lack of operational policing staff is resulting in inefficiencies in workload and call response.

#3 VicPD is experiencing an increased call load due to the fact that organizations responsible for specific calls (i.e. Bylaw Animal Conservation, etc.)  do not have sufficient staff.

#4 PRIME call prioritization results in certain calls being prioritized over others despite the nature of the calls. As a result, some calls for service remain in the queue for longer periods.

#5 VicPD has reviewed calls for Service (CFS) data and determined that there are likely efficiencies to be realized by making changes to staff shift patterns to better align existing resources to workload demands.

#6 Members are providing a breadth of services beyond their purview, which is exacerbating their workload.

#7 VicPD is ill-equipped to effectively prevent or respond to the increase in Cybercrime cases, and more specifically, those related to cyber-fraud and the online victimization of children.

#8 A lack of streamlined information sharing with community wellness providers and Island Health

#9 Funding for two of the three Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) officers were not approved by the Victoria Council

#10 VicPD is facing staffing challenges exacerbated by recruiting difficulties and a high volume of retirements.

#11  Our communities are growing both in size and through new development increasing both the demands and complexity of policing. A more balanced funding model is required to ensure adequate resources to meet these needs, one that draws funds from existing and new tax bases.

#12 VicPD has seen a dramatic increase in occupational stress injuries (OSI) in the last year.

#13 Long-term underfunding of civilian staff positions and capital funding has left several critical and non-discretionary information Technology (IT) projects in jeopardy.

#14 The Records Section has backlogs in reviewing files for accurate coding, processing of criminal fingerprints and concluded dispositions.  This has resulted in delays entering and updating police databases which officers rely upon for accurate information 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

These items should have been taken care of starting early in this century.

Appendix A. Police staffing numbers and cost across Canada (c)

The Transformation Report suggests financial and staffing shortages have led to a crisis situation within the force.  How do the combined VicPD budget and staffing numbers compare to other police agencies across Canada? Would the amalgamation of police forces with the CRD be more effective and cost-efficient?

Let’s simplify the numbers to see if that’s really the case and for purposes of comparison, we’ll use Toronto as the base as being the largest amalgamated city force in Canada. Toronto was merged two decades back along with dozens of other police forces across Ontario so there are plenty of examples.

Note:  In many cases, the budget and sworn numbers were difficult to dig out as they seldom appear on the same page (e.g. Wikipedia/City budget documents, etc.).  Sometimes older figures were used (2014, 2015, etc.) as those numbers provided an accurate reading of the sworn officer costs because overall police budgets and sworn officer staffing numbers tend to rise proportionately. If you note a significant error in some number, please let me know.

Across Canada $14.7 billion for 69,027 sworn officers = $213,000.  (2017) (footnote a)

Ontario (b) and Quebec

Toronto $1.15 billion for 5235 sworn officers =  $219,000/officer. (2015)  (Pop: 2,930,000)
Ontario Provincial (OPP) $1.16 billion for 5618 = $200,000 (2015)  (f)
Ottawa-Carleton Regional   $330 million for 1387 = $237,000 (2018) (Pop. 998,000)
Quebec Provincial (QPP)  $1.1 billion for 5269 sworn officers = $209,000
Montreal Police Service    I could not find reliable numbers.
York Regional Police   $334 million for  1565 = $213,000 (Pop: 1.1 million)
Waterloo Regional Police  $171,000 for 800 =  $213,000 (Pop: 531,100)
Hamilton Police Service      $178 million for 848 = $209,000 (Pop. 580,000)
Peel Regional Police  
 $423 million for 2040 = $207.000 (Pop: 1,382,000)
Chatham-Kent   $33 million for 165 = $200,000 (Pop. 105,500)
London Police Service   $108.5 million for 605 = $179,000 (Pop 404,600)   (this seemed a little low, so subject to further checks)
Thunder Bay PD    $42 million for 246 = $166,000 (b) (These numbers seem correct, but are very low… an email sent to the department)   (Pop. 110,000)

Prairies

Regina $92 million for 401 = $229.000 (Pop. 229,000)  (confirmed by email)
Edmonton $362 million for 1,780 = $203,000 (Pop: 981,000)
Winnipeg $310 million for 1,450 = $213,000  (Pop: 749,500)
Calgary $512 million for 2500 = $204,000 (Pop: 1,336,000)

British Columbia

Nelson $3.6 million for 19 = $189,500 (Pop: 10,664)
West Vancouver $15.4 million for 79 = $195,000 (2017) (Pop: 42,400)
Vancouver $257 million for 1,330 = $193,000 (same year wiki) (Pop: 675,200)
Saanich $33 million for 181 = $194,000 (Pop. 114,000)
Delta $37 million for 185 = $200,000 (Pop. 110,800)
Central Saanich $4 million for 23 = $200,000 (3 officers funded o/s) (Pop. 16,800)
New Westminster $23 million for 110 = $209,000 (Pop. 71,000)
Port Moody $11 million for 52 = $211,000 (Pop. 33,500)
Oak Bay $5 million for 23 for = $217,000 (3 officers funded o/s)  (Pop. 18,900)  (number to be checked)
Victoria/Esquimalt $56.5 million for 250 = $224,000 (2019)(Total 110,000)  (Victoria, $222,500)(Esquimalt, $261,000)  (Victoria Pop: 92,140) (d) (Esquimalt Pop: 17,655) (e)  (2019 budget)
Abbotsford Mun $50 million for 221 = $226,000  (very similar to Victoria)  (Pop. higher at 150,000)

(a) Police Force Distribution: “Of the 69,027 police officers in Canada, 56%, or 38,911, were employed by stand‑alone municipal police services. These included 874 officers serving with First Nations self‑administered police services. In addition, 18% of all police officers in Canada were employed in RCMP (c) contract policing, 9% by the OPP, 8% by the SQ, 7% were employed with the RCMP‘s federal and other policing duties, and 2% were employed with the RCMP‘s Headquarters and Training Academy. The remaining 1% of police officers in Canada were members of the RNC.”

(b) With the exception of Thunder Bay, the numbers across Ontario fall within the range of the $213,000 national average. I could not find an explanation for the low numbers in Thunder Bay, but given they have faced inummerable policing challenges over the past several years, perhaps it’s because the city has significantly underfunded their department.

Thunder Bay also provides an interesting comparison to Victoria. The population (110,000) is about the same as Victoria and the staffing numbers nearly the same (246 vs 250). Yet, the budget in Thunder Bay is a $58,000 per officer less than in Victoria. I sent an email to Thunder Bay to check on the figures but as yet have not received a reply. Regina, another in which I noted an anomaly responded fairly quickly.

(c) The RCMP detachments were not included as their funding sources are so convoluted, particularly at the Federal level. Detachments, large and small, may include services to others (e.g. first nations, etc.).  Across the country, it seems likely the RCMP is the most costly police force yet they provide cut-rates to communities choosing their service.  The cost-saving by cities and municipalities using the RCMP is picked up by every Canadian including people living in the cities and municipalities providing their own police force. I rather expect their wages are brought in line with others, costs of the RCMP may increase significantly over the coming years.

(d) At some point, I noted figures outlining ‘costs per citizen’.  Just to add a cautionary note on these figures. They can be misleading as costs are spread across the tax role.  If a city, town or village has a high percentage of business, industry, tourism, etc., costs could be significantly lowered for homeowners.

(e)  Don’t say “Poor Victoria”, say “Poor Esquimalt.”

A lot of news swirling around on the policing front these days with most items emanating from the City of Victoria. As usual, the city is complaining about the burdens they bear. I know the feeling as I’ve also noticed a lot more aches and pains as I get older.

Meanwhile, Esquimalt (that other side of the joint force) just tags along making similar complaints. But, what you may not realize – Esquimalt has a legitimate complaint. They pay a whole lot more for policing than does the City of Victoria? Here’s the breakdown.

Victoria’s Police budget is $50.5 million to which Esquimalt contributes a further $6 million. Given Esquimalt is tich smaller than Oak Bay and a tich larger than Central Saanich, one might expect they would have the same number of police officers as each of those two forces (23 sworn members). Do you suppose VicPD assigns that number of officers to Esquimalt for that $6 million? I highly doubt that given the current dismal state of affairs in the city (a perpetual problem it seems).

Based on Victoria’s $50.5 million budget for 227 members, that’s about $222,500 per sworn member. Esquimalt’s share of the joint force is 23 members (same as Oak Bay and Central Saanich). That means Esquimalt pays $261,000 for each member. That’s a lot of money for what’s likely far fewer than 23 members dedicated to serving Esquimalt. I wonder if Esquimalt has ever thought about that or are they just happy to “go along to get along?”

You can find the comparative figures for police departments across Canada in Appendix A of the link below. You might also observe that ‘economies of scale’ simply do not happen in with the amalgamated forces. What would happen in the CRD? Just like Esquimalt, the majority in the CRD would likely pay far more for a lot less with Victoria, and particularly their business community, calling the shots and reaping the benefits.

Now, don’t start feeling sorry for Victoria, they have plenty of advantages that don’t accrue to other areas of the CRD. They have everything for that matter, but what they don’t have, and what they dearly want, is control of the rest of the CRD. Right now, Esquimalt is just a poor second cousin being looked after by Victoria. They likely even let Esquimalt use the VicPD shoulder patch and letterhead. I bet they’d let the rest of the CRD members do the same.

It’s only speculative I know, but I wonder how many police departments in Canada the size of Victoria would jump at the chance of trading places with Victoria – one of the most beautiful, peaceful, welcoming cities in Canada. I’ve read that on a lot of tourist promotion sites.

If you wish to learn more about policing costs across Canada and why I think Chief Del Manak is on the right path with his Transformation Report, go to the following link. It’s a short read with a lot of linked information about what’s going on with other police departments in the CRD.

(f) Provincial Forces, as with many Federal parts of the RCMP, hold a somewhat different mandate than City and Municipal forces, so budget numbers for the regular policing part of the service could be skewed. I haven’t yet solved that comparison problem.

EndNote

If ‘economies of scale’ actually play a role in reducing overall police costs, one would expect the costs per sworn officer to be much lower for the QPP, OPP, GTA, Peel, York, Ottawa and other large amalgamated police forces across Canada. Such is not the case.

Further Reading

Part I, Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation.
Part II, Comparing police cultures and implementing change
Part III, The past as a guide to the future
Part IV The integration of police services (INTEGRATE NOT AMALGAMATE

Link to CBC Podcast: Policing in the CRD

Our City: The Capital Regional District

Contact: Harold@mcneillifestories.com

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    July 25, 2021 |

    Glad you enjoyed Craig. It was fun researching and writing that particular post. It seems I was in school many years before you, the 1950s to be more precise. Cheers, Harold

  • Craig Patterson

    July 18, 2021 |

    Thank you for sharing this. I grew up in Cold Lake (former town of Grand Centre) and we’d heard many stories over the years. Today I was talking to my Mom about the Kinosoo and I came to this article when I was searching images of the fish — I recall when I was in school in the 80s where was a photo supposedly taken (I think it’s the one of the ice fisherman above).

  • Harold McNeill

    January 15, 2021 |

    Wow, Graham, I was taken by surprise (but then again that’s not too hard). Having all you fine folks (my children by other fathers and mothers) would have been great. I’m hopeful that sometime in the not too distant future, we can reprise that trip. Perhaps we’ll just set aside a time for someone else’s landmark day, and we can surprise them. Love to you two. Harold

  • Graham and Nazanin

    January 15, 2021 |

    How could we miss this historic event my friend!!!
    Nazy and I were booked for that cruise Harold, we were looking so forward to it.
    We will be together soon! We both wish that continued unconditional love you receive from everyone to continue as you are that special someone that makes a difference in this world.
    Happy birthday sir, cheers!

  • Harold McNeill

    January 7, 2021 |

    Glad you found the site and that Dorthy enjoyed. I’ve added a lot of school photos in other locations linked to the High School Years stories. Cheers, Harold

  • Shelley Hamaliuk

    January 2, 2021 |

    Hi there, I am Dorothy Marshall’s (nee Hartman) daughter. Mom was quite excited when she discovered this site while surfing the net yesterday, so excited that she told me to have a look! She quite enjoyed taking a trip down memory and seeing old pictures of herself.Keep up the great work!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.