Some city councillors expressed frustration Monday that the Ottawa Police Service hasn't set aside money to hire more traffic officers in 2018, despite repeated requests and rising concerns about a lack of police presence on the city's roads.
"We continue to raise this issue and we don't see dedicated resources," said Coun. Riley Brockington Monday at a meeting to discuss the 2018 draft police budget.
He and several other councillors told Chief Charles Bordeleau traffic is the top police issue they hear about from their residents.
"The common question seems to be, 'Where are the police, where is the enforcement?'" said Coun. Keith Egli.
While the draft budget does call for 25 new officers, they will not be dedicated to traffic enforcement, Bordeleau told councillors.
"We are also balancing the other challenges that we have that are taking place in our community," he said.
Those challenges include the ongoing opioid crisis, cannabis legalization and homelessness, Bordeleau said.
"We're trying to balance all these competing priorities, and it's not getting easier."
Traffic always a top concern
Bordeleau said this year the force changed the way it deploys officers, shifting them from specialities such as traffic enforcement to front-line patrol duty.
Bordeleau said the hope is that by hiring new officers, it will free up regular patrol officers to do more traffic enforcement.
"Trying to increase their capacity to do that proactive work has been a key point of our new service delivery model," he said.
Bordeleau said the way police handle traffic will always be the top public concern because it's the most visible part of the job.
"That's what they see every day, is traffic issues, whether they're driving or they're walking," he said.
Meanwhile, injuries caused by traffic collisions in Ottawa has remained relatively steady over the past five years, with 26 fatalities in 2016 compared to 29 in 2012.
Councillors can't make changes to the annual police budget; they can only approve or reject the chief's draft. They also can't order the chief to hire more traffic cops.
If rejected, the police budget would be referred to the provincial government.
The public will have a chance to weigh in on the proposed police budget on Nov. 27 at a police services board meeting. The final police budget will be approved along with the rest of the city's 2018 budget on Dec. 13.