Kitchener-Waterloo

Regional council calls for more local control over police budgets, activities

Region of Waterloo council passed a motion Wednesday night to call on the province to amend the Police Services Act and give municipalities more say in the activities and budgets of their local police.

Council passed motion around advocacy on police reform Wednesday night

Region of Waterloo council passed a motion Wednesday to ask the province to grant municipalities more control over police budgets and activities. (Colin Butler/CBC)

Region of Waterloo council will call on the province to amend the Police Services Act and give municipalities more say in the activities and budgets of their local police.

The motion, passed Wednesday night, notes that the current Police Services Act does not allow municipalities to "direct or involve themselves in the activities of municipal police services."

"I think it's reasonable to expect that ... regional council, who represents all taxpayers, should have a little bit more say in how those police services are delivered," said Coun. Sean Strickland in an interview with The Morning Edition guest host Jackie Sharkey.

Ideally, Strickland said local council could move to reallocate money from an area of policing toward mental health services, for example.  

"We don't have that flexibility," he said. "All we can do is say yes or no to the police budget."

'Ultimately the province will decide'

Asked about the motion at a police services board meeting Wednesday, Chief Bryan Larkin said he thinks regional police have historically had a good relationship with both regional and lower-tier municipal councils. 

"But, obviously, people are calling on looking at doing things differently," said Larkin. "It's all great discussion and dialogue and ultimately the province will decide what changes occur."

In addition to calling for changes to the Police Services Act, the council motion also asks the province to:

  • Increase funding for social services that address mental health, homelessness and housing.
  • Adopt a "tiered policing system" that would allow special constables and other police personnel to take on more responsibilities. The motion says that right now, the bulk of policing work in Ontario is performed by first-class constables and sworn officers, regardless of the training that's needed.
  • Amend the interest arbitration system, which is used to settle disagreements over collective agreements.
  • Reduce the opportunity for police to be suspended with pay if their behaviour requires suspension.   

The motion will be circulated to local councils, members of parliament, members of provincial parliament and to the province's Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.

CBC News has reached out to Jones' office for comment on the motion.

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