Vancouver police seeking 2022 budget increase, saying climate protests costing millions

Vancouver police say climate activists are costing the department millions of dollars in resources.

The police board is pushing for a budget increase as part of the city’s 2020 budget. 

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) said it spent more than $3 million on protests last year alone — in comparison to $2.5 million in 2019 and $1.5 million in 2018. 

And the department says climate protests, in particular, are expensive.

“When [climate] protests do occur, they do tend to require a significant amount of resources, and I’ll tell you why,” Sgt. Steve Addison, the media relations officer for the VPD, said.

“Climate activists and other protest groups, they do tend to attempt to express their views through causing civil disobedience of various forms.”

Addison said the VPD has monitored more that 750 protests — a huge increase from years’ past. 

Of those, around 150 of them — or 20 per cent — have been demonstrations staged by various climate activist groups, Addison said, adding they require a significant amount of officers to ensure public safety since they often disrupt traffic and major infrastructure.

“Quite simply, you can’t do public safety on the cheap,” he said. 

The police board is asking the city for a $325 million budget for next year, $4 million more than what city staff had recommended and one of the reasons, Addison said, is the need for more of a police presence at the increasing number of protests.

The board says the money will allow them to fill approximately 15 vacancies. 

Currently, the police department’s budget makes up 20 per cent of the city’s spending.

Protesters vowed to block the intersection at Cambie and Broadway in Vancouver on June 12, 2021, until they received a phone call from Premier John Horgan. (Doug Kerr)

“I think that’s an obscene amount of money,” said Zain Haq, the co-ordinator for Extinction Rebellion, a group known for large-scale demonstrations around the world against what it calls government inaction on climate change.

Haq says the number of police officers that show up to their protests is unnecessary. 

“We do meet with the police and communicate what the plans are to the police in advance,” he said. 

“In my experience, they don’t need that many police officers to deal with something that’s quite predictable.”

Addison said the police department supports people’s right to assemble and protest but less disruptive tactics, like demonstrating in a park or hanging banners from a balcony, would tie up less officers. 

“But if you want to walk down the middle of Georgia Street, if you want to take over an intersection … That’s going to require a bigger police response,” he said. 

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