Ottawa police asked to tighten belts
Ottawa's police force, already facing intense scrutiny for how it has handled people in cellblock detention, is now being asked to watch its spending too.
Mayor Jim Watson and the newly formed Police Services Board met with acting police chief Gilles Larochelle on Monday night, and asked for police to trim $6 million from next year's budget.
Next year's draft police budget calls for an increase of 5.6 per cent, but Watson has insisted that the force, as well as all other city departments, stay within a 2.5 per cent tax increase he promised during his campaign.
"They're part of the Ottawa family and we're asking all of our partners to adhere to the budget guideline that was approved unanimously by city council," said Watson.
"It's not going to be easy, we never said it was, but we think it's realistic given the fact that inflation is running at about that rate now," he said.
To help, Watson said the city treasurer would offer her advice to police, even though the police services board has its own finance and audit committee.
Larochelle, who is acting chief while Vern White is out of the country, said the cuts would not go unnoticed.
"It's a challenge," he said. "It's going to have an impact to our organization and ultimately to the community. So we're trying to see what we can do to work with the city and the direction of the board to meet that goal."
If the police and police board are unable to meet the city's budget expectations, the board can appeal to the province for arbitration to overrule the city council target.
Audio recording coming to cellblock
Larochelle also gave an update Monday on what police are doing in the wake of the release of two videos — and the discovery of two additional videos — showing questionable behaviour by police while handling people in cellblock detention.
The province's Special Investigations Unit is looking into the handling of Stacy Bonds and Terry Delay while in detention, after videos released by the courts showed police kneeing and strip searching Bonds and kicking Delay. The Ontario Provincial Police are investigating the other two videos, which have not been released to the public.
Larochelle said Ottawa police would also be adding audio surveillance to their cell block area in late January or early February, which is sooner than originally expected.
Larochelle said one of his officers proposed an easier and faster way to install audio surveillance that sped up the process.