The president of the police union says the police services board’s "ineptitude" contributed to a $1.8 million overage in last year’s budget.
"If we keep going with the current trend, I think we are unsustainable" when it comes to budget costs, Waterloo Police Service Association President Bruce Tucker told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Wednesday. His comments came hours before the police services board, which manages the force, met to discuss a budget report that found that Waterloo police had spent $1.8 million more last year than it had budgeted.
Tucker said the cause of the overspending stems from the fact that the police services board budgeted improperly.
"That added another two and a half to three per cent on this year’s budget, so [they are] not taking accountability for their ineptitude and I think the public needs to know that." said Tucker.
The police service spent $3.4 million more than it budgeted for in 2012's $134 million budget, according to a recently released budget report. The excess expenditure was offset by $1.6 million in higher than expected revenues.
Tucker added that Waterloo Regional Police Chief Matt Torigian was aware of the budget gap and tried to address the looming financial shortfall with members of the police services board.
"[The board] chose to turn a deaf ear," Tucker said.
"We haven’t had an increase in our overtime in a number of years. We’ve always had a budget around $3 million. The calls for service has increased greatly. The officers have increased greatly. So to keep that in line is actually fantastic at this point in time."
Last year, the police service spent $1.2 million in higher than expected on overtime and court costs.
Tucker said police services board chair Tom Galloway and the rest of the board "chose to reduce the [overtime] budget by about a million dollars. That's improper budgeting. When you know you're going to spend $3 million on something and it's been that way for five or six years, you're going to spend it again."
Police services board chair Tom Galloway defended the board's actions.
"Well, if that's what he said, that's his opinion," he said in response to Tucker's criticisms of the board.
"I would say we've been responsible in trying to strike that balance between providing sufficient police service in the community and with what the taxpayers ability to pay is."
Change to staffing model suggested
Previously, Galloway told CBC News that one way of keeping costs under control is by saving fully armed armed trained frontline police officers from doing some police duties. He said if the police service was more flexible by using lower paid special constables or civilian staff in some instances instead of frontline officers, it could save money.
"Even something as simple as standing at the side of the road with a radar gun currently has to be done by a uniformed officer. If legislation would allow, we could possibly allow other types of staff to do those kinds of duties," Galloway said Tuesday.
But Tucker on Wednesday said that proposal can cause problems. He sees non-police officers performing the duties of front line police officers as a safety concern.
Tucker pointed to the March 2010 shooting death of OPP Const. Vu Pham as an example of how things can go wrong. The 37-year-old died after being shot during a routine traffic stop, near Seaforth, Ont. and paid "the ultimate price," Tucker said.
Tucker said that the decision-making in terms of police spending shouldn’t just be in the hands of the chief or the police services board. He proposed holding town hall meetings, in order to educate public on what police officers do and allow them to weigh-in on the decision making.
"The public needs to know what the true cost of policing is, not just what we bill them for," he said.