'Not sustainable': More than 1,000 Winnipeg cops paid above $100K

One thing the chair of the Winnipeg Police Board and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation can agree on, it's that police salaries are soaring to unsustainable heights.

1,066 Winnipeg officers made more than $100,000 in 2015.

1066 officers made more than $100,000 in 2015. (CBC News)

One thing the chair of the Winnipeg Police Board and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation can agree on is that police salaries are soaring to unsustainable heights.

The latest public disclosure report of municipal salaries not only indicates police are some of the City of Winnipeg's highest earners, members are making more than their counterparts in prairie cities like, Regina. 

A CBC News analysis of the report found 1,066 officers earned more than $100,000 in salaries and benefits in 2015.

"That's a lot of money, it is." Scott Gillingham, chair of the Winnipeg Police Board told CBC News Thursday. "The rate at which policing costs have increased is not sustainable."

The report lists police earnings that go well above $100,000. The city's third-highest earner was outgoing police Chief Devon Clunis, receiving $219,324 in 2015. 

An unnamed police constable came in fourth place at $211,719. That's more than the mayor, who made $178,738 and came in 18th, and more than three deputy chiefs of police and the city's chief financial officer.

Eight other constables topped $150,000, at least 50 per cent more than the base salary of $96,850 first class constables who have had more than five years service receive.

In addition to salaries, the figures include other taxable benefits such as overtime pay, retroactive pay adjustments, retirement allowance, sick pay and vacation pay cash-out, back pay and severance pay.

Gillingham said some of the police earnings could be sick pay cash-outs for retiring members, a perk phased out for new recruits in the late 1990's.

"If that is because of the sick leave cash out I'm very glad. And I think every taxpayer should be glad that that was taken out, that that was removed from the collective agreement. Because that program, that sick leave cash-out was just not sustainable for the taxpayers," Gillingham said. 

Excess overtime is something the force has been grappling with. According to the Winnipeg Police Service's year-end financial statements, overtime increased by 13 per cent between 2014 and 2015, dramatically outpacing salaries which increased by just 2 per cent.

"Some areas do inevitably have overtime and can have significant overtime whether it's homicide or major crimes," he said. "Where there's an make some changes for the sake of taxpayers, those discussions certainly need to happen."

Gillingham said overtime is monitored on an ongoing basis with the police chief, but he admits it's an issue that needs be reigned in, in the next collective agreement.

Salaries "concerning": Taxpayers Federation

Todd Mackay, prairie director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation calls the top police salaries in Winnipeg "concerning" but says police forces are taking "a greater and greater chunk" of city budgets across the country.

"We certainly appreciate the work they do. That said, we have to be careful of the costs that were imposing on taxpayers," he said.

Mackay said not only does overtime need to be more managed more efficiently, he said collective agreements need to take into account what cities can afford.

"Arbitrators typically look at contracts awarded to other police forces in other parts of the country and don't look at the ability of the taxpayers ability to pay," he said, noting the tax-base is different in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Toronto.
"When you look at the Jets, they don't just pay their players based on what other teams are paying, they also take a look at what they can afford to pay. We need to start taking those important pieces of information into account when were making contracts for police and other emergency services."    

By comparison, Regina's police chief came in above Winnipeg's police chief at $265,000 in 2015. However, no constable earned more than $137, 282, including overtime and benefits. 

"What that tells me is that we can find ways to do this, this isn't an act of nature," Mackay said.

The annual compensation disclosure documents list all civic employees whose total compensation exceeds $50,000.