‘No consultation’: Vancouver police chief slams $8.5M budget cut amid COVID-19 crisis

Vancouver’s police chief is expressing a “fundamental concern” about an $8.5-million budget cut to the department approved by city council.

In an email sent Wednesday night and obtained by Global News, city officials notified Chief Adam Palmer of a motion that was passed that night in-camera to cut the police budget by one per cent to help offset the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The police department is an essential service, Palmer wrote in reply to city manager Sadhu Johnston, and while the department works with the city, it is governed by the Vancouver Police Board and “does not take ‘direction from council.’”

“There was no consultation with the VPD on this motion nor was the VPD afforded the opportunity to address city council about the potential public safety implications/repercussions of reducing the VPD’s budget during a worldwide pandemic,” he said.

The cuts translate to about 80 fewer police officers, he added.

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“There is a lack of public transparency and accountability with this in-camera process,” Palmer said.

“This is particularly concerning regarding matters of public safety that impact all Vancouverites – decisions that have a fundamental impact on public safety should not be made in private.

Councillors are grappling with a projected funding shortfall of up to $5 million per week, with permit, bylaw fine and park board revenue all in free fall.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who is also the chair of the police board, has also said that as many as 25 per cent of homeowners could default on their property taxes, while the city remains beholden to other levels of government to pass those dollars on.

Palmer said the VPD has had a particularly challenging year so far, including large-scale pipeline protests, the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oppenheimer Park decampment as well as increased calls of anti-Asian racism, arson, commercial break-ins, and violent robberies.

“Regardless of the financial climate, police have an unwavering statutory requirement to maintain public safety, prevent crime, ensure the safety of victims and witnesses, apprehend offenders, and advance investigations,” Palmer said.

He will not be taking any further action until he receives direction from the board.

The mayor has scheduled a news conference at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday on the city’s finances.

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