Edmonton

Edmonton's proposed capital budget leaves critical measures unfunded, police say

The Edmonton Police Service says the city's proposed capital budget for the next three years leaves multiple critical projects unfunded.

City council to determine 2024-2026 police budgets next year

Edmonton police chief Dale McFee speaks to media after a police commission meeting on June 16. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The Edmonton Police Service says the city's proposed capital budget for the next four years leaves some critical projects unfunded.

The Edmonton Police Commission recommends council spend $132 million on capital renewal and growth projects but city administration is recommending spending less than half that amount.

The commission, alongside the police service, made the requests to city council during a budget presentation on Friday. 

Lori Lorenz, executive director of EPS value and impact division, told city council that this would put EPS "at a serious risk."

"If these projects are not fully funded, EPS will be challenged to provide public safety services to the standard that communities expect," she said.

The shortfall could mean postponing things like radio replacements and software upgrades.

It would also leave no money for new in-car video program or an expansion of its police-seized vehicle storage lot.

EPS capital requests include $30.6 million over four years to replace its fleet of 877 vehicles, $24.2 million to improve its police headquarters and $12.5 million to modernize its dispatch and records management system.

Lorenz said putting off some replacements and upgrades could lead to unplanned system downtime and increase the likelihood of security risks.

'I.T. is critical infrastructure'

Police Chief Dale McFee said most of the projects relate to information technology. 

"I.T. is critical infrastructure," McFee said to news media outside the meeting. "It's how we respond to calls, it's how we dispatch calls, it's how we measure officer safety, it's how we collect data, it's how we use evidence-based policing."

City council will discuss the request deliberations in the next two weeks. 

Coun. Tim Cartmell said replacing radios and software will be necessary. 

"That sounds pretty mission critical," he said. "You sure want the police service's IT systems to be up and running and secure and not hackable and not piratable, so I think there are some real questions there that we need to go through."

The police recently launched the in-car camera pilot program, which will see cameras installed in 32 vehicles until March.

If council doesn't approve $9.2 million over four years to expand the program, it will disappear.

Coun. Sarah Hamilton said she's heard the public call for the equipment. 

"Things like that, which community — regardless of how you feel about police — has identified as priorities," Hamilton said to news media. "That going to be a tricky one"

Future funding uncertain

In October, city council approved a revised funding formula for EPS, but only for next year. 

Council will determine the funding formula for 2024–2026 in the first quarter of 2023, which essentially gives police a lump sum of money, which they can move around to different areas depending on the need. 

Police say once the funding formula is solidified, it won't have to submit as many funding requests.

"The purpose of including service packages is to highlight the EPS requirements that are currently unfunded until a decision is made on the funding formula," Lorenz said during the city council meeting.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said council will have plenty to consider over the next two weeks and then in the spring, when the police formula comes up again. 

"Police budget has never been decreased over the past ten years, police budget has increased by 60 per cent," Sohi told news media. "I have not seen any other department increase by 60 per cent." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Madeleine Cummings is a reporter with CBC Edmonton. She covers local news for CBC Edmonton's web, radio and TV platforms. You can reach her at madeleine.cummings@cbc.ca.

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