Calgary police ask for more money to hire 'desperately needed' new officers

Calgary Police Service tells city council it needs to hire a class of 24 new officers to keep up with an increase in crime in the community.

Proposed plan is a 'maintaining budget' for CPS, says deputy chief

Deputy chief Paul Cook is calling for more funding to hire officers in the city's four-year budget. (Kate Adach/CBC)

Calgary police told city council this week they need to hire a class of 24 new officers to keep up with an increase in crime in the community.

That's in addition to the 48 officers the force is expected to hire in the next two years to replace those leaving the Calgary Police Service.

Deputy Chief Paul Cook addressed councillors Monday as they deliberated over the city's proposed four-year budget, asking them to pay for the new hires by giving the police a share of extra fine revenues anticipated as there's a bigger focus on enforcement.

"We're asking council to consider that we fund those 24 positions through revenue because I can tell you, we desperately need those positions and we need the 120 at the end of the cycle," Cook said.

The ratio of citizens to officers is projected to continue to rise above the current 630 to 1 in coming years, even with the proposed operating budget of approximately $401 million in 2019 and 2020.

The $401 million doesn't stray far from this year's funding.

The ratio of citizens to police officers in Calgary is expected to rise in the next two years under the proposed budget. (City of Calgary)

The budget increases to $411 million in 2021 and $421 million in 2022, allowing for the hiring of 60 additional CPS positions each year — but it's not known how those jobs will be divided between civilian and sworn officer positions.

Cook told council that as the city grows, crime is increasing both in numbers and complexity.

Cook described the proposed spending as a "maintaining budget" for the police service.

The proposed budget includes:

  • $11 million to replace the two HAWCS helicopters after 15 years of service.
  • $6.5 million for the red light camera enforcement program.
  • $32 million for the ongoing replacement of police vehicles.
  • $4 million for in-car digital video.
  • $32.5 million for a new district office.
  • $7.4 million to upgrade computer equipment.

Low morale has been an ongoing issue at CPS, with just four per cent of respondents to a recent employee survey saying they strongly agree morale is good, and 76 per cent disagreeing. One concern flagged by employees was that they feel overworked.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said council is considering the request to use the enforcement funds for hiring.

"Sometimes people worry that it becomes like a cash cow. 'You're going to have speed traps just to get money' — that doesn't really happen because fundamentally council still has to approve the use of those funds. So ideally if we can figure out ways to get more boots on the street in a reasonable way I think that's worth it," he said.

"People are always asking for more traffic enforcement, and so far as the police service can address that then they may as well use the revenue for something."

Council has set aside a week for the budget debate.

With files from Scott Dippel