Nelson Police Department Asks Council for First Increase in Officer Staffing in 18 Years
The Nelson Police Board appeared before council on November 5 asking for an additional police officer and an additional administrative staff person in its 2013 budget for the Nelson Police Department (NPD). The presentation was made by Police Board member Mike McIndoe and Police Chief Wayne Holland.
In 2011, the number of police officers in Nelson was cut from 17 to 16 when an officer resigned and was not replaced. In the city budget for 2012, Council decided to leave the number at 16 officers to cut costs. The budget proposal for 2013 asks for the return of the 17th officer.
Chief Holland thinks it’s an urgent need. “We can only keep burning the candle at both ends before something tragic happens,” he told The Nelson Daily.
Holland and McIndoe presented the following statistics:
- Police to population ratio for Canada: 1:493
- Police to population ratio for B.C.: 1:538
- Police to population ratio for Nelson: 1:625
- Nelson’s case load per police officer: 54
- Case load per officer for similar B.C. police forces: North Saanich, 26; Oak Bay, 32.
- Increase in calls for service to NPD to date in 2012 over 2011: 15%
- Increase in crime statistics in Nelson to date in 2012 over 2011: 10%
- Increase in NPD budget or the past nine years: 21% (average 2.33% per year)
- Increase in NPD wages and benefits cost over the same period: 28%
- Last increase in number of officers: 18 years ago
- Last increase in administrative staff: more than 30 years ago
The NPD’s proposed 2013 budget totals $2,752,013, an increase of $124,001 or 4.7%, over last year. The increase covers the $60,000 cost of an additional administrative staff person and the approximately $100,000 cost of an additional police officer. Both figures include wages and benefits. Costs were cut in a number of other areas to make room for these increases.
To see the proposed budget in detail, and the text of the Police Board’s presentation to City Council, click on the attachment at the end of this article.
Policing more people than funding allows
Holland says the NPD’s funding problems are exacerbated by Nelson’s status as a “core city” in which a wide variety of services (government and business) are provided for a large population outside the city. The result, he says, is that the NPD polices more people than it is funded for.
Mentally ill people take time to work with
Another factor, he says, is the larger than average population of mentally disturbed people in Nelson. “We have studied this and 16-20 percent of our calls are from seriously emotionally disturbed persons, and that is at least 1000 calls per year where we are going to be spending time with these people, and often they are violent, often they are a danger to themselves, but never are they situations that can be handled in just a few minutes. You have to take your time.”
No call is too small
An additional factor is the NPD’s “no call too small” policy, in which the police are willing to attend for even the most minor issues. Look for a separate article in The Nelson Daily on this policy in the near future.
City Council will not be making any decisions on the proposed budget now. It will be merged into Council’s annual budget planning session in the spring, a process that often takes months. It was presented to Council early because provincial legislation requires police boards to present their budget for the upcoming year by November 31.
Union negotiations still to come
Not included in the provisional budget is any wage increase that the Nelson Police Association might gain in its negotiations next year. The Association’s current collective agreement with the city expires on December 31, 2012.