Calgary police get approval after offering more details on budget request

A day after firefighters said they are in dire need of a budget increase to address changing demands within Calgary, police provided more details on their request to city hall, and eventually got approval.

As part of budget discussions continuing through the week, the Calgary Police Service requested more than $6 million to be added to its books over the coming year.

This comes after additional money was already put into the CPS coffers as part of re-allocation discussions focused on adopting anti-racism initiatives and reforming the service among global calls to rethink how the police work in our society.

As discussions dragged on into the evening, the request was approved with an 11-4 vote on Tuesday. Councillors Kourtney Penner, Courtney Walcott, Gian-Carlo Carra and Mayor Jyoti Gondek were opposed.

More civilian positions

When news first came out about the additional budget request weeks ago, Chief Cst. Mark Neufeld said it would centre on filling more civilian positions and helping forward the work that has been done over the past year.

“Some of these of course are very significant, as you know, and in combination, they become hugely problematic,” Neufeld said of certain challenges, speaking to council digitally alongside a group of CPS executives.

He said in addition to facing increased crime trends, the service is very understaffed, with the lowest officer-to-citizen population ratio compared to other major Canadian cities. Police had already tried to hire 60 new positions before the pandemic broke out, but COVID-19 put those plans on hold, Neufeld added.

With the money, the CPS hopes to fill 38 positions but only 13 would be frontline officers while the rest would be civilian.

Neufeld knows some people may not be fond of this request. However, he stressed it is necessary right now in order to get the service to a place where it better serves the community.

“This is not about fixing a broken organization,” he said. “It’s an adjustment of the timeline for implementation, taking into account the practicalities of COVID-19 and the realities around our ability to hire new positions allocated in 2021.”

Pandemic costs, impacts to frontline officers

Calgary police have also been making reductions, to the tune of $12 million along with another $11 million toward the city’s budget savings account. As it stands now, however, this is a situation they cannot sustain, Neufeld noted.

This has been reflected in poor morale, as a survey showed officers are displeased with their work environment as they grapple with a lack of resources, feeling that the city is less safe as a result.

Almost 300 officers are currently on leave, dealing with injuries, mental health issues, or because of other factors.

More money and time is being spent on an increase in protests throughout the pandemic. This alone is expected to run up a bill of $2 million by the end of the year, with a quarter of that money being spent on overtime for officers needing to bill extra time to help monitor crowds.

Councillors had lots of questions about the request, with Ward 9’s Gian-Carlo Carra backing Neufeld in his assertion that lots of work is underway.

“If I’m hearing you correctly, it’s too soon to tell but we’re doing the work,” he said.

Ward 4 Councillor Sean Chu tried to push back on calls to “defund the police,” but was shot down by Mayor Jyoti Gondek who wanted to make it clear that is not something that has been put forward by council.

“Reallocate the money, to be seen as a lot of people say in the media as defunding the police,” said Chu.

“Councillor Chu, keep that up and I will cut you off. We did not have a conversation about defunding the police, whatever people perceive that conversation to be is not before us,” Gondek responded.

Need for focus on vulnerable populations

In response to questions from Ward 2’s Jennifer Wyness around dealing with the addiction and drug toxicity crisis, Neufeld said police do not want to be in the business of criminalizing vulnerable citizens — building on prior talks about call diversion.

But Ward 8 Councillor Courtney Walcott, who voted against the final resolution, remained mostly skeptical, earlier bringing up concerns around school resource officers and what they do or do not offer to students. In some closing comments, he said the city needs to do a better job in creating a better society to help with reducing demand on police.

“Their job has historically been to do whatever they call to prevent it, but also primarily to respond to it, as spoken with the need which is to respond to priority one calls. Our job is to fund the programs that will reduce those calls,” Walcott said.

“If we’re really going to be partners in this, I think we need to take a look, heavy, internally at what we are doing to support people in need, rather than continuing to just ask the CPS to take it off of our hands in the form of a cheque.”

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today