Should Montreal police officers be on traffic duty? It's costly
Opposition party calls for trained civilians to take over traffic duties
The use of Montreal police officers to direct traffic at roadwork sites is being called a waste of both taxpayer money and police expertise by the opposition Projet Montréal.
According to Projet Montréal, the city pays officers around $60 an hour for directing traffic, which in 2015 amounted to around $8 million.
That was double the $4 million spent in 2014.
With all the road work taking place around the city this summer, Projet Montréal said the total for 2016 is expected to rise above $8 million.
Councillor Alex Norris, who serves as co-chair of the city's public security commission, said training civilians to do the work would cut those costs by about a third.
Cities like Vancouver have already switched over to civilians, who are paid between $22 and $26 per hour for the work, Norris said.
In other parts of Quebec, police are not the only ones directing traffic.
Quebec's Ministry of Transport uses special employees trained in traffic control.
However, Projet Montréal's concerns aren't just about the money, Norris said.
"Police officers were trained to do much more complex and demanding work than that. We don't believe it's fulfilling for police officers to be doing work like that – standing around directing traffic– when they could be doing investigations or preventing crimes," he said.
City bound by police collective agreement
The City of Montreal's executive committee agrees that using officers is not ideal, especially given the fact they have to do the work outside of regular hours and are paid overtime wages.
There's no way around it, however, because it's part of the police force's collective agreement.
"We know that civilians can do the same job, but we're not allowed now, because [of the collective agreement]," said Anie Samson, the executive committee member responsible for public security.
"We have to respect what is in the collective agreement. And that's why we're going to go to arbitration, for that point and a list of other points. But this one is very important."
Samson said the city has been negotiating with the police brotherhood since February of last year.
However, even if a change is negotiated, Montreal police will still direct traffic in dangerous locations.
with files from Emily Brass