Officers will be the ones to suffer after city council refused to approved more dollars for the Edmonton Police Service, according to the president of the city’s police association.
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“Our members are paying the price now,” Sgt. Tony Simioni told reporters Friday. “The workload is simply becoming extreme."
Simioni says Edmonton was the only major city in Canada to experience a rise in violent crime last year, an increase of 1.4 per cent.
Councillors approved a city budget Thursday night that saw a tax increase of 5.7 per cent.
To achieve that number, council turned down a request from Edmonton’s police commission to add $13 million to the EPS budget, which had already seen a significant increase. Instead, they approved a $2.5 million in extra funding.
Simioni said that will mean the service will need to cut programs – like a successful initiative that had police officers patrolling the LRT system.
“The chief needs 200 positions. We were already asking less than that. And we got even less," said Simioni.
He also criticized councillors for approving money for programs he believes will increase crime without hiring new officers, like the $1.6 million destined for late night bus services.
"If you're turning a bunch of drunks loose on our public transit system late at night and you don't have the police officers to staff it we're going to have a problem."
However, Coun. Ben Henderson said it isn’t as simple as approving the police request. He said the $13 million increase would have been enough to push the tax increase up a full percentage to 6.7 per cent.
He says it isn’t just a case of making cuts elsewhere.
“That’s huge,” Henderson said. “The idea that it’s easy to cut that much money from elsewhere without people being upset about a service that will be compromised, I think, is a bit of a myth.”
Henderson said that the approved budget provides a lot of funding the police service – including enough money to hire at least 54 new officers and $3.5 million for a new police helicopter.
“Every year we put substantially more into the police than we put into anything else,” Henderson said.
Councillors have called for the province to provide more money to bolster Edmonton’s police budget, saying there is a ‘massive inequality’ compared to subsidies that smaller centres receive.