The Nelson Police Department is asking for an increase of $253,000 for 2017, which would bring its total budget to $3,178,291.
Police Chief Paul Burkart presented the figures to city council on Monday on behalf of the Nelson Police Board. The board is required to provide a provisional budget in November of each year in anticipation of council’s budget deliberations in the spring.
The increase will cover the cost of two new employees — one officer and one civilian support person — whom the department recently hired after being ordered to do so by the provincial director of police services in March.
Burkart said the two positions will cost about $180,000 in 2017 and the remainder of the requested increase would go toward anticipated costs resulting from a new collective agreement, which is still being negotiated with the city. The police department has been without a contract since 2012.
The budget request does not anticipate the reinstatement of the deputy chief position, eliminated last year to reduce costs.
Burkart said the department has saved money by hiring a new recruit rather than a full-fledged officer. She is currently in training and will start at the department in December. And he says the newly-hired civilian is a support person rather than an administrator, also to save money.
Burkart said the support person will “support our members, it will support our dispatch area which is incredibly busy, it will help with our guarding of prisoners, and we are hoping it will free up some time for uniformed members to get back on the street.”
Burkart said 22 cents of every tax dollar goes to policing in Nelson, and that policing uses about nine per cent of the city budget.
He presented statistics comparing Nelson with two of the other ten similarly-sized communities that have municipal police forces (Oak Bay and Central Saanich) and with Castlegar, Trail, and Cranbrook, and argued that Nelson has more crime and fewer officers per population than those communities.
Those statistics, along with the rest of Burkart’s report to council, are attached below.
Burkart said Nelson is a core city, which means the population during the day is much larger than the resident population.
“We are staffed for a city of 10,000. We are not staffed to take on 16,000 which is the usual daily count. It means a larger case load, and crime is about a third of what we do. The other two thirds deal with mental health calls, traffic accidents, missing persons, so (our officers) are a busy bunch.”
City council did not make a decision about the budget request, but will incorporate it into its budget discussions in the early spring. The Police Board is funded mostly by the city, and its officers and civilian staff are city employees.
The city will be required to fund the requested increase because it was mandated by the provincial government. The background for this is that in its 2015 budget, the police board asked the city for a $311,000 increase to cover the cost of two additional officers and an administrator, but council declined. The board then appealed to the provincial director of police services, who has the power to investigate and declare the minimum number of officers required in Nelson. The director decided that the city must hire another officer and an administrator.
The police department presentation to counsel is attached below.