Kitchener-Waterloo

Cutting $29.3 million from police budget would eliminate 216 officers: Larkin

Cutting $29.3 million from the Waterloo Regional Police Service budget could mean cutting 216 officers from the service, according to Police Chief Bryan Larkin.

Advocates for police defunding have called for $29.3M reduction since June

Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin says cutting the 2021 budget could mean cutting officers. (Teghan Beaudette/CBC)

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.  

This table was submitted to the Waterloo Regional Police Services Board alongside a draft version of the 2021 budget. (Waterloo Regional Police Service)

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.

Region of Waterloo Chair Karen Redman joined The Morning Edition for an interview that touched on a number of topics: the Waterloo Regional Police Services budget, the region's anti-racism initiatives and what the second wave of COVID-19 means to the region. 8:11

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.

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