Calgary

'We can't absorb further cuts', says Calgary police chief as council debates budget

Administration has found a way to shield police from impacts of the provincial budget reductions unless there's a property tax freeze, in which case the service will have to cut another $8.5 million from its budgets.

Councillors are debating whether to cut services or maintain 3.5% tax hike

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld says the service would have to eliminate 85 position if its budget is cut. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

Calgary's police chief says the service can't sustain another budget cut after years of trimming.

He was speaking to city council on Tuesday as it debates three budget scenarios this week: maintaining a planned 3.5 per cent tax hike, a 1.5 per cent tax hike or a zero per cent increase. 

Recently, the police service lost $13 million in funding from the province and has lost $12.5 million from the city since 2017.

It is, by far, the largest recipient of tax dollars in the vast city bureaucracy. 

No cuts without freeze

Administration has found a way to shield police from impacts of the provincial budget reductions unless there is a property tax freeze. In that scenario, the service will have to cut another $8.5 million from its budgets, with the remainder covered by the city. 

"We can't absorb further cuts at this time without impacting the service we provide to Calgarians," Chief Mark Neufeld told council. 

He said the service would have to cut 85 positions within the service at a time when crime rates are rising faster than that provincial and national averages. 

Most of those positions would be civilian roles rather than front-line officers. 

Speaking after the meeting, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it's important to take a hard look at the police budget and that it can't just be protected at the expense of other programs. 

"We need to be able to manage costs very well and, frankly, the police have not had to deal with cost reductions to the same extent as others," he said of the police budget over the years. 

Social service cuts

Cuts to the police budget aren't the only pressures on the service. 

Proposed cuts to the social services in the Calgary budget and recent cuts in the provincial budget mean some of those functions will be downloaded onto officers. 

One example raised in council on Tuesday was the DOAP teams that roam Calgary and take people in need to shelters like Alpha House. That service was cut back by the province. 

"I think the DOAP teams were very helpful to us in terms of demand management," said Neufeld. 

There are still teams operating in the inner city, but outlying district are no longer serviced, and Neufeld said officers will now have to transport individuals, many of whom might have a troubled relationship with the service.

"I'm concerned looking at this budget, I think crime will go up and then we'll have to expand your budget," said Coun. Druh Farrell about the impacts of city and provincial cuts. 

Neufeld said he has "huge concerns" about those impacts and that the service does not want to cut from crime prevention and focus its energies solely on enforcement. 

About the Author

Drew Anderson is a web journalist at CBC Calgary. Like almost every journalist working today, he's won a few awards. He's also a third-generation Calgarian. You can follow him on Twitter @drewpanderson. Contact him in confidence at drew.anderson@cbc.ca. Signal contact upon request. CBC Secure Drop: www.cbc.ca/securedrop/

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