New Westminster police officers have not been banned from working overtime.
At its May 23 meeting, the police board received a staff report about the New Westminster Police Department’s financial status and forecast, based on the 2023 first-quarter results. The report outlined some of the reasons, including overtime, that the police department has exceeded its year-to-date budget by $563,000.
In response to that report, Mary Trentadue, a former city councillor who is now serving on the police board, asked if the board could receive a debriefing about overtime so police board members could get a better understanding of how overtime works.
Chief Const. Dave Jansen said the police department would work on providing a report to the board. He noted the NWPD did have a “high-risk file” it was working on, which had a “significant” cost.
“I am not super interested in the files that relate to overtime, but how we manage overtime and how we can actually help to make sure that we don’t have as much overtime as we do,” Trentadue said.
In a 5-2 vote, city council approved a motion Monday night to have council write to the police board requesting to engage in collaborative dialogue about the 2024 police budget on an ongoing basis beginning in spring 2023.
Queen’s Park resident Dave Brett spoke at Monday’s council meeting, urging council to reject the motion from Coun. Nadine Nakagawa.
“What I’m here to do today is to ask that the council not proceed with further micromanaging of the police budget,” he said. “There is a reason why there’s a separation between the police and this chamber, and why police boards are set up to promote independence from the political process.”
Brett said he’s been tuning in to police board meetings and reading the board’s agendas, and has found the board to be “highly transparent.” He said a lot of information about the New Westminster Police Department’s budget is available online with the click of a button.
“I’m worried about the message that a motion like this sends to the police department that is struggling to retain and recruit constables,” he said. “We do not want to send the message that we have a problem with police officers, for example, taking overtime.”
Brett said one of the new police board members brought forward a suggestion at the last meeting that “overtime for police officers be scrapped.
“This is the wrong direction to go,” he said. “Police departments across North America are struggling because of the negative perceptions of police that have been conjured up, I think in many cases by the defunding activists. … I don’t think it’s necessary to add new pressure and political interference into police budgeting, particularly at a time when there’s such incredible anxiety about law and order.”
Mayor Patrick Johnstone, chair of the police board, said the police department has not banned overtime.
“There was no motion or suggestion at the police board that over time be scrapped,” Johnstone said at Monday’s meeting.
After reading some comments on social media that suggested the police board had banned overtime for the police department, Johnstone said he contacted the police chief to confirm that was not the case.
“I clarified with the police chief that that is not what I heard in that meeting. He clarified that that’s not what he heard in that meeting,” Johnstone told the Record. “There was a discussion in that meeting about us having more transparent reporting of overtime so that the police board, in their fiduciary and duty as police board members, can understand better what overtime impacts are on the budget. … That is a long stretch from saying that someone is proposing that we end all overtime.”