Introduction

There has been a great deal of public discussion around the Board’s request for a Director’s review of Vancouver City Council’s decision to reduce the Vancouver Police Department’s (VPD) 2021 budget as submitted by the Board and Director Rideout’s subsequent independent decision to reinstate the deficit.

As a Board, we have a strong commitment to transparency, and in this post, you will find links to the submissions, documents and reports with respect to this review.

Background

On March 8, 2021, the Vancouver Police Board (the Board) submitted a request to Wayne Rideout, Assistant Deputy Minister and Director of Police Services, to decide under his authority in section 27(3) of the Police Act on a $5,689,974 shortfall resulting from Vancouver City Council’s decision not to approve the VPD’s 2021 operating budget as submitted by the Board.

In submitting the 2021 budget, the Board had considered the financial implications resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic by opting to delay year four of the five-year staffing plan under the 2017 third-party Operational Review – which had been approved by both the Board and Vancouver City Council that was in place at that time. Council’s decision to cut the 2021 budget further by not taking fixed cost obligations into consideration resulted in a rolling deficit to the base budget, which, if not reinstated, would have meant a $5.7mil shortfall for each year moving forward. Both the Minister and the Municipality have a legislated duty to ensure adequate and effective policing in the City.

Developing an Operating Budget

The Board is the independent governing authority of the VPD and is a separate legal entity from the City. The Board is mandated through the Police Act to develop and approve an annual operating budget to submit to Council.

The development of the VPD budget is an in-depth, complex process that requires hundreds of hours of dedicated analysis, planning and forecasting from the Chief Constable, other senior VPD officers and financial administrators, City Staff, the Board’s Finance Committee, as well as the other members of the Board.

Board recommended budgets are developed relative to the needs of the people of Vancouver regarding public safety, with both the VPD’s Strategic Priorities and City Council’s priorities in mind.

It is important to note that the Board engages with Vancouver City Council in a substantial manner as part of the budget planning process. This is done through presentations that provide opportunities for questions and answers, ongoing dialogue, as well as significant information sharing. This engagement with City Staff and Council regarding the budget is an important aspect of the budgeting process, and it is something that we take seriously. We know that the best approach to the work done by the Board is through discussion, collaboration and authentic engagement.

Our Request for Review Submissions to the Director of Police Services

You can read the Board’s and the VPD’s submissions to the Director here:

Following the Board’s submission, Director Rideout engaged with two external consultants (Mr. Peter Lepine and Mr. Peter Lockie) to assess the Board and the Municipality’s financial management framework, the impacts of the budget shortfall, and the emerging environmental impacts on adequate and effective policing.

In addition to a thorough interview process, the Board, VPD and the City submitted extensive information to the consultants as part of their external review.

You can read the consultant’s final reports here:

Director Rideout’s Decision

After careful review and analysis, Director Rideout made the independent decision to restore the amount requested by the Board. You can read Director Rideout’s decision here:

The consultants’ reports determined that the VPD and the Board have a strong financial management framework in place, with strong financial oversight and appropriate financial policies and procedures.

Mr. Lockie stated that there is a robust budget development process and financial process as well as internal and external audit functions in place.

In his decision letter, Director Rideout said: “Ultimately it appears that Council’s decision on the 2021 operating budget was based primarily on its own financial situation without due regard for the priorities, goals and objectives that define the current level of service delivery and deployment model.

He added: “I am not suggesting that a municipal council cannot refuse to approve a police budget item or amount. Nor am I suggesting that a police department is free to implement any service delivery or deployment model at any cost. On the contrary, the board and chief constable must continually examine and evaluate the service levels, deployment model, programs, services, and staffing needs and explore opportunities to reduce costs and leverage operational efficiencies in a manner that reflects the community’s public safety needs and priorities. They should also work with the municipality to ensure its service is financially sustainable. This appears to have been the case in Vancouver.”

Director Rideout also stated in his decision letter that he suggests that “Council view any budget decisions, in addition to any financial concerns it may have, through the lens of the downstream impacts on service delivery. Public safety is a shared responsibility among the municipality and the police department.”

We continue to be committed to working with the City of Vancouver and City Council through constructive engagement and open dialogue to collectively work towards our shared objective of making Vancouver a safe and respectful place to live, work and visit.

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