Ottawa

Freezing budget could lead to nearly 140 layoffs, police force says

If the Ottawa Police Service’s 2022 budget were to be frozen at this year’s levels, the force would have to eliminate nearly 140 police officers, according to a report set to be received by the police board Monday.

Zero per cent tax levy option would mean 'major reduction,' OPS report says

A zero per cent tax levy option would mean a $13.5 million deficit in the Ottawa Police Service's budget and would lead to a 'major reduction in OPS capacity and service delivery,' according to a report set to go to the police board Monday. (Radio-Canada)

If the Ottawa Police Service's 2022 budget were to be frozen at this year's levels, the force would have to eliminate nearly 140 police officers, according to a report set to be received by the police board Monday.

In the budget scenario report, the OPS says a zero per cent tax levy option would mean a $13.5 million deficit that would lead to a "major reduction in OPS capacity and service delivery."

The report outlines what three different scenarios would mean for the force's operations: one that would see no new money, a second that would see a 1.5 per cent increase, and a third with a three per cent increase.

The options come after heated and impassioned public delegations during the 2021 budget process, where speaker after speaker asked for the police board to defund the force or at least rethink how it does its business.

In an attempt to answer those calls, the board struck a task force to see how feasible it would be to keep the 2022 police budget to 2021 levels.

Zero per cent means zero hiring

The OPS warned in the report that its best efforts to forecast what the three scenarios could mean for the city haven't yet included any feedback from community consultations planned over the next four months, or accounted for ongoing contract negotiations between the police board and both police unions.

However, the elimination of 130 to 140 employees could mean that any police units or positions not legislated or mandated by the province would be eliminated or reduced, OPS said.

"There are very few remaining civilian members who can be reduced because, over the last decade, the OPS has already reduced the operating budget by $20 million mostly through back and middle office efficiency reviews," according to the report.

With the base salary of every police officer pegged at $100,000, the force said it would need to lay off 10 officers for every million dollars in budget reduction.

All police recruiting and hiring would be suspended in that scenario, which police say would have a long-term impact on "overall levels of diversity within the OPS."

Not only would the force not be able to expand its priority areas — neighbourhood policing, for example — but the effects would be felt at the most basic level, including longer response times for 911 calls for service, the force said.

The OPS also expressed fear that it would not be able to respond to some kinds of calls altogether.

3 per cent tax increase direction approved by council

In the 1.5 per cent tax levy option, police anticipate a $6.75 million deficit that would cost them anywhere from 60 to 70 police officers.

In that case, the officers let go would come from "the investigative, operational support and customer service areas," according to the report.

Ottawa police originally forecasted needing a 3.6 per cent budget increase for 2022, but city council approved a three per cent increase Wednesday as a budget direction for all city departments, so that they could begin drafting their requests from city coffers.

While that would represent $2.3 million less than what OPS had hoped for — and a theoretical loss of 20 to 25 officers — the impact of the loss could be offset by other efforts "designed to advance public trust [and] duty of care," the report said.

Among those efforts, the service has already committed to a community-led mental health strategy that is in its very early stages. Police said they could also make investments into investigating violence against women with "trauma informed community services" and into investigating homicide cold cases with a "dedicated unsolved homicide section" that would improve "public trust/duty of care to the victims' families in the impacted communities."

While the service would not layoff any officers, it would also not be able to hire to account for attrition.

The Ottawa Police Services Board is scheduled to meet virtually on Monday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shaamini Yogaretnam

CBC Ottawa reporter

Shaamini Yogaretnam is CBC Ottawa's justice, crime and police reporter. She has spent nearly a decade covering crime in the nation's capital. You can reach her at shaamini.yogaretnam@cbc.ca or 613-220-2486.

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