The New Westminster police board is concerned about the rising costs of training recruits at the Justice Institute of BC.
Jennifer Keyes, director of the Police Academy at the JIBC, wrote to New Westminster Police Department Chief Const. Dave Jansen on Dec. 18 to alert him of tuition increases set to take effect in the spring of 2023. The letter was included on the agenda of the New Westminster police board’s January meeting.
“The JIBC and the Police Academy have concluded their budget review … and arrived at the decision to increase the per-recruit cost-recovery rate charged to the agencies by five per cent from the current amount of $22,110 to $23,215, effective April 1, 2023,” said the letter. “This is in line with the five per cent increase to the recruit tuition charge and will contribute to supporting a balanced Police Academy training budget.”
At its Jan. 17 meeting, police board member Heather Boersma voiced concerns about the increase in tuition for recruits.
“I just wanted to talk about this because the JI is increasing the cost again, and I feel like the costs of this training are quite excessive for the length of the program,” she said.
Boersma doesn’t think the board should “just accept price increases” without having a deeper conversation about the issue.
Mayor Patrick Johnstone, who is also chair of the police board, questioned whether the police department had factored the increase into its 2023 budget.
Jansen said he received the letter in December, which was after the police board had approved the police department’s 2023 budget. (Municipal police boards are mandated to approve their budgets by Nov. 30 of the preceding year.)
“This was unexpected,” Jansen said.
Jansen said that municipal police chiefs haven’t had an opportunity to meet and discuss the issue since receiving the letter.
Because of the timing of the announcement, Jansen said it wasn’t factored into the police department’s 2023 budget.
“This will be, again, another unfunded cost to the organization that we haven't included in our budget with the city,” he said.
Jansen said he’ll get more information about the increases from other police chiefs and the JIBC and report back to the board at the next meeting. He also said it’s something that the New Westminster police board’s representative to the B.C. Association of Police Boards may want to raise as an issue.
In November, the police board supported a 2023 budget for the New Westminster Police Department that includes increased costs for a number of items, including additional funding for sending recruits to the Justice Institute of B.C. The $29.26 million budget was an increase of $3.1 million from the 2022 budget.
(While the budget has been approved by the police board, it has not yet been approved by city council as part of the City of New Westminster’s 2023 budget.)
A November 2022 report to city council stated that the province and the Justice Institute had advised municipal police departments that beginning in 2024, all municipal police departments would have to start paying $22,000 for each recruit that they send to the JIBC police academy. Originally set to be implemented in 2024, Police Services wrote to police boards and departments in May 2022 to advise that this timeline had changed – and rather than implementing the new fee in 2024, it was effective immediately and retroactive to April 1, 2022.
“Municipal agencies are now required to contribute $22,000 per recruit,” said the report to council. “In 2023, we are estimating nine recruits; therefore, we are requesting an additional $198,000 in funding to support this downloaded but mandatory increase.”
Johnstone said costs are also rising for recruits, who are also paying for a lot of their own education expenses.
“If we're trying to achieve equity goals in how we hire in the police force, that might create a barrier as well,” he said.
Jansen said concerns have been voiced in the past that rising costs could be putting roadblocks in the way of efforts to create a more diverse police force.
The chief will report back to the board at its February meeting on the reasons for the tuition increases, the issue of timing of the increases as it relates to the police board’s budget cycle and the impact that rising tuitions are having on efforts to diversify the workforce. At that time, the board can consider whether further conversations or advocacy are required regarding the issue.
“Ultimately, this is being pushed by the provincial government funding models, so that's where our advocacy has to go back,” Johnstone said. “But we should be informed (about) why it's happening and also informed about how it's actually impacting our operations or how we want to operate.”