Nova Scotia

Boots on the Street funding shortfall could mean police layoffs in Cape Breton

The chief of the Cape Breton Regional Police says officers could be laid off if the provincial government doesn't increase funding for a program it launched a decade ago.

Chief Peter McIsaac says per-officer funding hasn't kept pace with rising costs

Cape Breton Regional Police Chief Peter McIsaac has told the police commission officer layoffs could be coming. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

The Cape Breton Regional Police Service says it may have to lay off some officers if the province doesn't increase its funding for the Boots on the Street program.

Nineteen extra officers were hired in 2008, when the province first introduced the program. It was intended to boost police presence and crack down on crime.

The extra officers bring the police service's total force complement to 202.

But police Chief Peter McIsaac told a meeting of the regional police commission Thursday that funding for the program hasn't kept pace with increases in wages and other costs. He said the province has not increased its original allocation of $100,000 per officer.

"Since 2008 to now, obviously with wages gone up, the complexities with investigations, training, cost of equipment, uniforms, cars, all that stuff's gone up," said McIsaac. "It's actually $130,000 for the cost of that officer, so it's a $30,000 shortfall."

Cape Breton Regional Municipality is looking for a consultant to find ways to cut down on the cost of policing service without necessarily reducing staffing levels, officials say. (George Mortimer/CBC)

The total shortfall is estimated at about $520,000 a year, which McIsaac said is equivalent of about four annual salaries.

The municipality plans to ask the Nova Scotia Department of Justice for the extra funding.

McIsaac said it's well worth it. He said the Boots on the Street officers play a big role in major investigations, and the numbers from 2017 bear that out.

"A million dollars of drugs off the streets. Hundreds of search warrants. People who are a significant danger to our community, apprehended," he said. "For me, it's about delivering the service, and these are so important. I don't want to lose one of them, because I don't think we can afford to lose one of them."