Ottawa police vow to beef up force despite budget crunch
New recruits overdue after 6-year hiring freeze, says police board chair
Ottawa police will forge ahead with a plan to hire 25 new recruits next year, despite a tighter budget than they'd originally banked on.
The Ottawa Police Services Board voted Monday night to direct staff to draft a 2016 budget based on a 1.75-per-cent tax increase, or a two-per-cent hike on residential tax bills. That's lower than the 2.6-per-cent tax increase police Chief Charles Bordeleau has estimated he'd need to afford the $1.3 million it will cost to swear in the new officers.
Nevertheless, Deputy Chief Ed Keeley, acting for Bordeleau at the Monday night board meeting, vowed the plan to bolster the force will proceed.
"We're making the commitment to hiring the 25, and we're committed to doing it within the existing budget," said Keeley. He said details about how police will achieve that will come Nov. 12, when the force presents its draft budget to the board and city council.
New hires overdue
Board chair Eli El-Chantiry said police will have to streamline some areas and delay some projects in order to find the savings needed to both hire officers and balance the budget. But he agrees the new hires are overdue.
We haven't increased our workforce since 2010, so I think we are due after six years.- Eli El-Chantiry, Ottawa Police Services Board chair
"Remember, we haven't increased our workforce since 2010, so I think we are due after six years," El-Chantiry said.
He said he has heard from some in the community who question the need for more officers.
"A lot of folks tell us, 'The crime is declining, why do you need 25 new police officers?' Yes, the crime is in decline, but a lot of the work we do is not registered as a crime."
El-Chantiry said officers spend much of their time responding to mental health calls and accompanying patients to hospital. With Canada's 150th birthday celebrations approaching, Ottawa police need the manpower now, he said.
In addition to the money required for the new officers, the 2016 police budget proposal includes $5.9 million to maintain services, and another $2.2 million for "new services and needs." The proposal identifies $2 million in "service initiatives and efficiencies," some of which were outlined during the board meeting.
Bordeleau has said he'd like to hire 25 more officers in 2017, and 25 more in 2018. But with the mayor's promise to cap annual tax increases at two per cent for the rest of his term, El-Chantiry is more cautious when it comes to longer-term budgeting.
"We're going to achieve 25 this year, but the years after, 2017 and 2018, we have to wait and see," El-Chantiry said. "If we can continue with a balanced budget and hire new officers, by all means. But at what expense, because sometimes if you are hiring more that means something else is going to wait longer."