Calgary

Calgary police chief says he can support reallocating $8M of police budget next year

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld says he can support giving up $8 million from next year's police budget, with one caveat — that the funds reallocated to help people in crisis lead directly to a drop in call volumes for police officers.

But Mark Neufeld says he wants to see the initiative directly leading to lower call volumes for officers

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld, seen in this file photo, says he can support allocating $8 million of the police budget next year to those agencies that can support those in crisis. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld says he can support giving up $8 million from next year's police budget, with one caveat — that the funds reallocated to help people in crisis lead directly to a drop in call volumes for police officers.

"We've heard loud and clear from various advocacy groups, as well as our own members, that we're attending to issues that are not necessarily police-related," Neufeld said Wednesday during budget deliberations at city council.

"Over the years, we've become the default first responders for a variety of social issues given the lack of alternatives for 24/7 responses."

The proposed reallocation was outlined on Wednesday as part of ongoing budget adjustment discussions at city hall.

Currently, Calgary police respond to situations like mental health calls and welfare checks. Under the reallocation, police would return $8 million to the city from next year's budget. 

From there, police would work with the city to determine which agencies could access those funds in order to best serve the community.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said council will debate tomorrow whether to accept the recommendation.

"The police chief was pretty clear that $8 million reallocation will not reduce the number of officers on the street, it will not change how officers work," Nenshi said.

"[It's] his hope and aspiration that it, in fact, will make policing better."

Proposed budget adjustment

As part of Wednesday's deliberations, administration also proposed council take back next year's planned $10 million increase, which was to be used to hire 60 new officers.

That reduction is part of the city's plan to cut $90 million in spending in order to bring in a tax freeze for 2021. 

The plan to hire 60 new officers emerged out of Calgary's four-year budget passed in 2018, which was premised on the expectation of future growth.

Neufeld said Wednesday he wasn't happy about having to cut the police budget, but said there were cuts he would target should it be necessary.

"I'm not suggesting to you that I'm happy about those things, or that I'm advocating for those things," Neufeld said. "We're just being transparent, that [here's] how we'll manage them if we have to do that. But it's not ideal."

Though the police are offering to give up the 60 new hires, Neufeld said 132 new officers will still be hired next year as replacements for those who are resigning or retiring.

During deliberations, Coun. Joe Magliocca put forward a motion to restore the $10 million in funding to hire 60 new officers.

Council will vote on the various motions on Thursday. Calgary has set aside a week for the entire annual budget debate, which will include a public hearing.

With files from Scott Dippel

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