Calgary to look at shifting $20M from police budget over 2 years toward crisis services

Calgary will look at moving money from the police budget to spend on crisis and outreach services. 

Money would account for about five per cent of Calgary Police Service's budget

Calgary will look at shifting about five per cent of the police budget to community services. (David Bell/CBC)

Calgary will look at moving money from the police budget to spend on crisis and outreach services. 

Council voted 9-5 late Tuesday evening to ask administration to look at the impact of reallocating $10 million from the police budget and other sources in 2021 and $10 million in 2022.

Calgary Police Service's budget was $401 million this year, the largest item in the city's budget. Council had approved increases of $10 million for both 2021 and 2022.

The money would account for about five per cent of CPS' budget. 

That money would be put toward a community safety framework to address gaps in crisis services, outreach services and emergency response, as well as gaps in racially and culturally appropriate services. 

The city said police would be engaged in the development of that framework. 

Coun. Evan Woolley, who brought the motion forward, pointed to the Calgary Police Commission's most recent citizen satisfaction survey which showed concerns with how police engage with Black, Indigenous and People of Colour.

"These struggles have been taking place for generations … it is important that we not only make statements but take meaningful steps to respond," he said.

Woolley also had some pointed words for Coun. Jeromy Farkas, who he said had suggested the motion was akin to defunding the police and falsely claimed he was removed from the police commission. 

"These words are like weapons, Councillor Farkas ... I would expect you to be honest and cease this fearmongering," Woolley said. 

"We are asking that we share resources in a time of very limited resources to support crisis services for vulnerable individuals, their families ... is that defunding the police? When the province cut $13 million from the police budget last year, that is 30 per cent more than what we have proposed right now, was that defunding the police?" he asked. 

Woolley said the approach is similar to what the Calgary Police Service has proposed for next year, and said it will not deeply impact the budget while supporting what he described as transformative work in the community. 

Farkas, pushing for an amendment that would see the money instead taken from the city's rainy day fund, described the motion as a "dangerous attempt to appease extremists."

Mayor Naheed Nenshi asked him to withdraw the comment or his mic would be cut, Farkas refused, and his mic was cut, shortly before his amendment was defeated. 

Farrell said she was excited to support the motion, to look at ways of spending money proactively to address the underlying causes of crime. 

"I think we've finally realized that we've been going down the wrong path," she said. 

The report on how to allocate that funding will be brought to council during its budget deliberations this month.