The acting chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service is asking the NDP to support the Ontario Liberals' budget because it contains money for First Nations policing, which is desperately needed.
Bob Herman said the province's pledge to help replace lost federal money will allow his First Nations force to rehire 11 police officers. His force polices 35 First Nations communities in northern Ontario.
Herman said he has emailed the NDP's Sarah Campbell — MPP for Kenora-Rainy River — to ask her party to vote in favour of the budget. He said funding cuts mean police officers are often working alone, without radio contact, in remote communities.
"There's a lot of times right now where officers work alone in communities. And, when you're dealing with communities up north where the crime-severity index is five times the provincial average, you certainly need more than one officer," Herman said.
The provincial budget pledged $4 million to fund 40 First Nations police officers who had been hired under a federal government program called the Police Officers Recruitment Fund. That federal fund expired on March 31, 2013.
"As the federal government has not committed to extend this funding, the 2013 Budget provides additional annual funding of $4 million ... to ensure the safety of Ontario's First Nations communities," the Ontario budget said.
Of the $4 million for First Nations policing across the province, the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service's share would be $1.1 million.
Herman said, the federal government also needs to step up its permanent funding, and the provincial budget echoed this.
"The province cannot step in every time the federal government decides to cut funding. The province calls on the federal government to fully fund the police officers hired under the Police Officers Recruitment Fund, and to make the funding permanent," the budget said.
Herman said the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service has been under-funded for years. The last negotiated budget with the federal and provincial governments was in 2008 and costs have been rising since then.
"First Nations policing is in crisis mode," Herman said.
Herman had retired from the Thunder Bay police service before he went to the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service. He said there is a double standard in funding:
"I can tell you that — having come from a municipal policing environment where I spent 32 years, 12 of those as chief — that you wouldn't be able to operate a municipal police force on this funding," he said.