Kitchener-Waterloo

More officers needed to keep up with demand, police chief says in ask for more cash

Chief Bryan Larkin presented a draft of the Waterloo Regional Police Service's proposed 2022 budget to the police services board on Wednesday morning. In his address to the board, Larkin said the number of officers has not kept up with the growing region and investment in resources is needed.

Switch to hybrid, new central division and pay increases also drive up budget

Waterloo Regional Police Service Chief Bryan Larkin presented a draft of the service's 2022 budget to the police services board members on Wednesday. The report said even if the service makes no changes to staffing next year, costs will see the budget rise by about seven per cent. (Teghan Beaudette/CBC)

There's too much work and not enough police officers to do it.

That's the message Waterloo Regional Police Service Chief Bryan Larkin had for the police services board on Wednesday morning as he presented a draft version of his proposed 2022 budget.

"What I'm really focused on is workload and call management, but it's also around the wellness of our members," Larkin told board members.

"We're in the people business and our members are working extremely hard and I'm concerned that if we don't continue to provide some form of investment, we're going to have to do business differently, cease doing certain things," Larkin said.

"We simply cannot keep up with the volume," he added. "Our members are just … they're stretched and so something needs to give."

The draft budget offered the police services board five scenarios for the 2022 budget. Four of them included hiring new officers (starting at 25 in the first scenario and up to 55 in the fourth). The fifth scenario kept the service at its current staffing levels.

Going with the fifth scenario, the smallest budget increase, would still involve an increase by seven per cent compared to the 2021 budget, which would be an additional $13 million.

This chart shows the five scenarios presented to the police board on Wednesday. (Waterloo Regional Police Service)

The Region of Waterloo has indicated to regional staff it wants to keep next year's budget to between a two to three per cent increase.

Kirsten Hand, the police service's director of finance and assets, said to keep the police service within that budget increase, it would mean cutting 37 officer positions.

Violent crimes up, harder to clear cases

Larkin's presentation to the board showed that of the 12 largest police services in the province, the WRPS is below the median number of officers, which was 144 across all 12 police services. WRPS is at 131 officers per 100,000 people.

He added that crime severity is up, as are violent crimes, while officers have not been able to clear out cases at the rate of other police services.

During his presentation, Chief Bryan Larkin showed this graph and how the number of officers per 100,000 residents in Waterloo region decreased over the past several years. (Waterloo Regional Police Services Board/YouTube)

Police board member Karin Schnarr, who is an associate professor of policy and law at Wilfrid Laurier University, noted of those 12 police services, there were situations where police services with fewer officers were able to clear more cases.

"I look at Halton and Halton is one where proportionally has a lower number [of officers], lower than our region, and yet I think was the area that had the highest clearance. So I wasn't really sure I buy all of the other information. I'm not sure some of the takeaways from the presentation related to the statistics that we had," she said.

Calls to reallocate police budget

Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz also asked Larkin about calls in the community to defund police and reallocate that money to other programs such as crime prevention, mental health supports and housing. 

"When you're transitioning between two different ways of … doing business, there is a period of time where it's really expensive because you're really operating two systems in a sense," Shantz said.

"As we look at improving some of our upstream work, how do you pull those two together and do you see that there'll be decreases in costs down the road?"

Larkin said the police service is "fully committed to prevention and fully committed to upstream work."

"I think a lot of upstream work is happening in our region. I think that there's a narrative that it's not happening and I disagree with that," he said.

This graph showed the number of cases 'cleared' by officers in the 12 largest police services across the province as well as for all of Ontario and Canada. (Waterloo Regional Police Service)

But he said officers are seeing more crime in the rural areas of the region, they're trying to help people who are victims of crimes on the internet and then they're also trying to meet demand of residents who want to see officers on the street patrolling.

"There's people calling for upstream. I can tell you that in downtown Cambridge, in downtown Kitchener and uptown Waterloo the request I'm getting is for more policing, not less," he said.

Other costs increasing

Hand told the board other costs that are driving up the budget include:

  • The cost of moving the fleet of police vehicles to hybrid.
  • Implementing the provincial digital evidence management system.
  • The body worn and in-car video pilot.
  • The new central division building.

The service is contractually obligated to give a cost of living raise under the collective agreements with unions. She said the service is also facing increased premiums for its long-term disability program and increased costs for medical, dental and retiree benefits.

On top of that, the police service's grant from the province for court security prisoner transportation was cut by $1 million to $4.4 million.

The board asked the police services to come back with three of the five scenarios to review again: no change to staffing levels, hiring 25 officers and hiring 35 officers.

The budget is expected to be reviewed at the Nov. 17 police services board meeting.

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