Ottawa Police Services Board approves 2021 budget increase
Leaders say change will come with future budgets
Despite an outcry from many members of the public calling for the Ottawa police budget to be frozen or decreased, the police services board has passed a $13.2-million increase for 2021.
The board was told by Jeff Letourneau, the chief administrative officer for the Ottawa police, that most of the $13.2 million increase to the $332.5 million budget covered wage inflation.
Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King, the city's anti-racism liaison and first Black city councillor, was the sole board member to vote against the budget.
He said he would prefer the board meet its obligations related to wage increases but freeze other increases until wider public consultations are done.
Board Chair Diane Deans acknowledged this budget would not be going as far or as fast as some Ottawans want, but that the plan is still to get there.
Part of that plan has the board asking Ottawa police to reconsider hiring 30 new officers in 2021 and instead look at alternatives such as mental health experts, youth outreach workers and social workers.
"We don't want to do business as usual. We recognize that we need to move a long way," she said. "I think we want to push the envelope and we want to push hard."
Police Chief Peter Sloly also reiterated his commitment to change, but told the board it would take time.
"I share your fierce urgency of now. I want it all done yesterday. I'm a realist though, and I've been in this business a long time," he said.
"This budget will allow for greater change, deeper change, broader change, more integrated change."
City council will hold a final vote on the 2021 city budget on Dec. 9.
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Board member Bev Johnson's motion to hire a third party mediator to work with Black and Indigenous people in Ottawa to "help restore lines of communication and trust between two parties" passed at the meeting.
"It has impacted us all. We're all thinking about it and your words mattered. What you said, your experiences you shared," she said.
The board passed another six motions that included allocating $150,000 a year for a community partnership fund and another $25,000 to support the Ottawa Police Community Equity Council, which was brought forward by King.
Concerns raised over handling of protesters
The vote on the 2021 budget was held a day later than expected after a lengthy meeting Monday in which nearly 100 community members signed up to speak, many addressing an erosion of trust with police after officers arrested a dozen demonstrators who had set up an encampment at Laurier Avenue and Nicholas Street.
King also expressed his concerns Tuesday over how police handled those arrests.
"I believe that there was a serious erosion of trust with the Black and Indigenous communities last weekend," he told the board.
WATCH | Ottawa's anti-racism liaison's reaction to weekend arrests:
King had been scheduled to meet with the demonstrators Saturday morning, just hours after they were arrested.
"[That erosion] does really deeply affect members of the board. It affects me deeply, because obviously, we want to build trust with the community. That's what I've been trying to undertake," he told CBC earlier Tuesday.
King said Sloly still had his "confidence," but he also recognized there was more work to be done.
At Tuesday's meeting, many of the board's other members thanked the dozens of delegates for raising their concerns before voting to approve the budget.
With files from Hillary Johnstone