$214M proposed police budget sparks debate among Waterloo region council
The 2023 budget is up by about $18M from last year
The proposed 2023 Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) budget presented at Wednesday's regional strategic planning and budget committee meeting sparked debate and lively conversations among councillors.
This year's budget proposed by WRPS is over $214 million, which is up by about $18 million from last year. It had been approved by the police board in January.
"I'm not discounting any of the good work that the police do, and continue to do and want to do," said Coun. Dorothy McCabe to police Chief Mark Crowell.
"But I'm just noting the fact that it makes it really difficult for us to continue to fund some of those root cause issues, with affordable housing, and housing and homelessness and things like that when we're also looking at an increase that you're requesting."
Police Chief Mark Crowell gave an hour-long presentation of the services WRPS provide, while highlighting the crimes that occur in the region with comprehensive details and figures.
Over the course of his presentation he made the case for an increase in police staff.
"I highlight today this point of staffing, where we have seen, from our position, an under investment in the policing and public safety needs in commensurate with growth of our region over time," Crowell told council.
In a police report provided to council, WRPS indicated that they'd like to bring on 55 additional officers over the next three years, 19 of whom would come on staff this year as part of the proposed budget to "high demand policing areas." A further 18 would be added each subsequent year.
The staffing request was informed by a KPMG study referenced in the report, but not provided to council, pointed out regional Coun. Rob Deutschmann.
"You keep referencing the KPMG [report] but … if you're going to reference reports and evidence that we can't see as part of this analysis, it puts us at a disadvantage to have a conversation," Deutschmann told Chief Crowell. "Because you've seen it but we haven't seen it."
WRPS said that the number of officers per capita in Waterloo region has gone down as the region has grown in size, and that crime has gone up by 34 per cent from 2012 to 2021.
According to the WRPS report, in the last year shootings are up 56 per cent, cybercrime is up 36 per cent, weapons charges are up 27 per cent and impaired driving charges are up 19 per cent.
Coun. Sue Foxton said that she is in favour of the increase in police officers.
"I think we need you badly," she said. "Not to be heavy handed but I think I need you as the guardians of our community."
"I think crime is starting to take over and your numbers prove that, and we need you. We need you to be our guardians again."
WRPS said its "primary areas of investment" are wellness, intimate partner violence unit, special victims unit, senior support team, and human trafficking unit and frontline patrol services.
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