Saint John councillor mulls switch to RCMP for policing city
Coun. David Merrithew wants city to get estimate from Mounties as possible cost-saving measure
A Saint John city councillor wants council to study the cost of bringing in the RCMP to police the city, in hopes it may be a way to save money.
Ward 4 Coun. David Merrithew will put forward a motion Monday night, asking city staff about getting a quote from the national police force.
"This past budget saw costs for policing increase by approximately $1 million," Merrithew states in his written submission to council.
"Such increases in a single year, especially given the small growth in our overall tax base, are not sustainable," he said.
"It is the financial responsibility of this council to explore alternative cost for policing services for the city of Saint John."
But Chris Waldschutz, chair of the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners, contends Merrithew's figures are misleading.
The Saint John Police Force's core operating budget is unchanged this year, he said.
Council recently approved a 2014 policing services budget of $23.7 million. Last year, the budget was $22.7 million.
The $1 million increase covers two years of anticipated pay increases — 2013 and 2014 — as well as long-term disability commitments, said Waldschutz.
My fear is we're not going to compare apples and apples.- Chris Waldschutz, Saint John Board of Police Commissioners
In addition, the force represents 13 per cent of the city's overall budget, which is comparatively low, he said.
"My fear is we're not going to compare apples and apples," Waldschutz said, with respect to any study.
Meanwhile, the New Brunswick Police Association says it conducted a 15-year comparison that shows the RCMP is consistently more expensive in New Brunswick than municipal policing.
The cost of Mounties range between 10.4 per cent and 26 per cent higher than the average cost of a municipal police force, based on data provided by the provincial government, said executive director Bob Davidson.
"A federal service cannot be less expensive than a local service, it's just not going to happen," he said.
Davidson worries about the impact of Merrithew's motion on morale among the Saint John Police Force's 166 officers.
He contends it's an anti-union move in the midst of contract negotiations that are at an impasse.
"This tactic is very disheartening and very suspicious at this time when you have your contract going to binding arbitration to settle," he said.
In June, Saint John council voted unanimously to promote the idea of creating a regional police force.
But the proposal was quickly shot down by the Fundy Regional Service Commission.
Council subsequently voted unanimously on a motion to declare its support for city officers.
The Saint John Police Force is one of the oldest police services in Canada.
The RCMP provide policing services in 190 municipalities in Canada.
Moncton started outsourcing its policing services to the Codiac Regional RCMP in 1997, when the city disbanded its municipal police force.
The city had considered switching back to a local police department in 2010 during a financial dispute with its neighbouring communities of Dieppe and Riverview, as well as the federal government.
But council voted to keep the RCMP after it reached a new-cost sharing deal with the other two municipalities.
In 2012, the federal government also agreed to contribute 10 per cent of the policing costs in Greater Moncton.