Council to add $10M to 2012 police budget

Calgary city council voted Tuesday to add $10 million to the police budget for 2012.
Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson told council Tuesday that the force needs a bigger budget to address issues such as sexual abuse and domestic violence. Council later voted to add $10 million to the 2012 police budget. ((CBC))

Calgary city council voted Tuesday to add $10 million to the police budget for 2012.

Council voted 13 to two to avoid $5.1 million in cuts from the 2012 police budget.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Alderman Dale Hodges both voted in favour of the cuts, noting that all departments are tightening their belts and the police shouldn't be exempt.

Council also voted to put $4.8 million towards hiring an additional 32 officers next year.

Calgary Police Commission chair Mike Shaikh said the decision shows council had confidence in the police service.

"Now they can get back to work and do what they're good at. I firmly believe in investing in safe community and this is a good first step forward in investing in a safe community."

As police chief Rick Hanson spoke during council's budget deliberations Tuesday, he was asked how his department would use the money if it was restored.

"We would staff up front counters so that there's more convenience for citizens to report, we would staff up some of our investigative areas that are in desperate need of additional resources to do adequate and proper investigations on the increase in things like child abuse which is dramatically increasing not just in this city but elsewhere," said Hanson.

"Violent sexual abuse, domestic violence is not decreasing, we have to staff up to address those issues."

Ald. Shane Keating, who sits on the police commission, said before the vote that he supports a budget boost for police, but said that doesn't necessarily mean taxes need to go up more.

"We have to make sure that we look at maintaining the services that we have. People have said we want the service, we're willing to pay for them but we want to make sure we're getting good value. And I'm not sure we're at the good value yet," he said.

With the additional spending, next year's property tax increase now stands at six per cent -- and could go even higher as the budget debate continues.