Calgary

Calgary police need 55 new members despite city's tight budget, chief says

Calgary's police chief says the service needs to hire 55 more people to deal with rising levels of crime, in spite of a major shortfall anticipated in the city's budget.

'Complaints don’t stop coming in just because the economy is bad,' chief says, as police seek $14M boost

Police Chief Roger Chaffin at the Calgary Police Commission meeting. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Calgary's police chief says the service needs to hire 55 more officers and civilian members to deal with rising levels of crime, in spite of a major shortfall anticipated in the city's budget.

"We have to start looking for incremental but intelligent growth for the service so we can start meeting some of the needs that are out there that are simply left unattended right now," Roger Chaffin said.

He highlighted a "huge rise" in child abuse and domestic violence, in particular, as areas that police need to devote more resources to.

"These are things we can't look away from," Chaffin said.

His comments came after the Calgary Police Commission, a civilian oversight body, endorsed a proposal on Tuesday evening that asks city council for a $14.3-million boost to the service's budget.

The city is facing an anticipated $170-million budget shortfall next year and council has set a target of keeping any tax increase at a level between zero and two per cent.

The city had previously built in a 4.7-per cent tax increase for 2018 in its long-term financial plan, but council voted in May to pare that back.

A two-per-cent increase would raise about $32 million in additional revenue, which Chaffin admitted makes the police request for $14.3 million a significant request, but one he said the service doesn't make lightly.

"The complaints don't stop coming in just because the economy is bad," he said. "Eventually we're going to have to start addressing those issues through intelligent growth."

Budget decision in November

After October's municipal election, the newly elected council is set to vote in November on the city's 2018 budget.

City manager Jeff Fielding has said city staff will have to find ways to make up the budget shortfall through savings or cuts as they prepare a detailed budget for the new council to consider.

Chaffin said the police service has instituted a hiring freeze on civilian members and cancelled an October class that would have included 24 new recruits "just to make sure that we're well positioned going into these budget deliberations."

"I didn't want to hire people only to have to let them go if something really dramatic happened in the budget," he said.

With files from Justin Pennell

now