Cutting $29.3 million from police budget would eliminate 216 officers: Larkin
Advocates for police defunding have called for $29.3M reduction since June
Cutting $29.3 million from the Waterloo Regional Police Service budget would mean cutting 216 officers from the service's workforce, according to Police Chief Bryan Larkin.
Larkin said cutting that amount of money would eliminate the service's south and north divisions, which serve Cambridge, Waterloo and the townships.
Doing so could affect public safety, he said.
"When you start reducing police budgets, response times, ability to have officers respond, [it] does create challenges," said Larkin, who made the comments Monday during a meeting of the police services board.
The amount of $29.3 million is what local advocates for police defunding have asked for, in the wake of June's Black Lives Matter — Waterloo region march.
Lang Ncube is among those advocates, and watched the budget presentation Monday.
"Police presence and police interactions are not the only forms of public safety that exist," said Ncube, who is the community development coordinator for the African, Caribbean and Black Network of Waterloo Region.
"Other public safety models could be created as alternatives to policing."
Larkin said the police service already faces workload challenges, given the number of officers for the size of the region's population. Even keeping the budget steady next year could mean eliminating more than 40 officers, he said.
According to a Statistics Canada report submitted to the board alongside the budget, Waterloo region has fewer police officers per 100,000 people than the national average.
Board calls for budget scenarios
The current version of the 2021 operating budget calls allocates $189.2 million for the Waterloo Regional Police Services. It means the average regional household would pay about $681.56 next year in taxes for police operations. The capital portion of the budget for 2021 is currently set at about $37.6 million, including some carry forward from the 2020 budget.
Most of the costs associated with the police budget are tied to human resources expenses, according to a presentation made by the service's head of finance. Although the budget does not call for more officers, other costs include:
- Estimated contractual salary increases.
- The annualization of 2020 contractual agreements.
- Increasing benefit costs.
Finance staff with the police service have already reviewed previous versions of the budget and reduced $753,000 in operating and $5,997 in capital costs, according to the budget presentation.
The police services board has directed police to prepare multiple versions of the 2021 budget that would describe the impact of different budget scenarios for the service.
The scenarios are expected at the next police services board meeting Nov. 18.