New Brunswick

Fight police budget cuts, says union

The Saint John police union is urging the local police commission to fight common council over recent cuts to the department's budget – even if it means suing the city.

Police commission urged to sue city over $1 million-cut

The Saint John police union is urging the local police commission to fight common council over recent cuts to the department's budget – even if it means suing the city.

Bob Davidson, a consultant working for the Saint John Police Association, claims the $1 million-cut, approved by council last week as part of the 2012 city budget, is a violation of the New Brunswick Police Act.

Under the act, it’s the commission’s responsibility to provide and maintain an adequate police force and advise council accordingly so the municipality can budget the necessary money, Davidson told commission members during a meeting Tuesday night.

"Members of this commission have been charged with the legislative responsibility to determine what constitutes an adequate police force budget and it is then the legislative responsibility of common council to fund the budget," he said.

'We're asking them to enforce the Police Act and not be a rubber stamp flunky department.'—Bob Davidson, police union consultant

But council arbitrarily decided to cut the budget, thereby treating the commission as if it has no authority, said Davidson.

"We're asking them to enforce the Police Act and not be a rubber stamp flunky department," he said.

"Now it's matter of whether they have the fortitude to stand up and defend their budget. Because if they don't, it's a slippery slope... Basically, what's the purpose of this commission?"

Department will manage

Commission chairman Christopher Waldschutz isn’t convinced.

"From my perspective I'm not prepared to do that. I want to look forward, not backwards," he said.

"We are faced with a new situation, we’ll manage that accordingly.

"I’m sorry that we have to do this. It’s a major blow to us. However, I’m not willing to butt heads."

Waldschutz contends even with the budget cuts, the police department will still be able to police effectively.

"If they ever cut us to the extent that we were unable to do what we considered necessary to provide adequate policing for the citizens of Saint John, then I would, I’d do some of the things he suggests – I’d sue somebody, I’d get hysterical, I’d do something.

"But we’re not anywhere close to that, not even close."

Meanwhile, Police Chief Bill Reid said he'll work with the $22 million-budget he has been given.

Although the police union contract does not allow officers to be laid off, several officers have retired in recent months and those vacant positions may not be filled, he said.

Mayor Ivan Court, who voted against the city budget, has said he's worried about public safety, given the loss of 20 police officers over the next two years, at least 16 firefighters, and a co-ordinator with the Emergency Measures Organization.

Council voted 7-2 to cut $9 million from programs and services across the board to help deal with the city's pension plan deficit, which has ballooned to $190 million.

 

 

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