Saskatoon

Cost of policing in Saskatoon should continue to rise into at least 2020s: Chief Troy Cooper

Saskatoon police chief Troy Cooper says it's likely police will be asking for annual budget increases for at least the next three years.

Police service must juggle public expectations, technology and variety of policing models

Chief Troy Cooper reflects on his first year on the job. (CBC)

Saskatoon police chief Troy Cooper says policing costs are going to continue to rise as the service wrestles with a growing city, public expectations and technology.

In an interview with CBC News, Cooper said requests for more money at budget time should likely continue for at least into the early 2020s.

"Three years is short term for us, there's not a lot that can change, I think, operationally or organizationally," he said.

"It really depends on what the expectations of the community continue to be. So if we're going to continue, and in the short term, that's true, it will happen in the short term, but in the long run people may have a different expectation around the professional police, and there may be views of different models of policing that are less expensive, more sustainable, and we're starting to do those reviews now."

Council recently approved a $4.1 million increase to the police budget for 2019. This follows on the heels of a $3.6 million increase in 2018, $2.8 million in 2017 and $3.8 million in 2016.

Population impact

Cooper became police chief earlier this year after coming to Saskatoon from Prince Albert. He said one thing he was not prepared for was how Saskatoon's growing population affected budget planning.

"Prince Albert had a static population for a couple of decades and when you worked on policing initiatives or planning, whatever you dealt with that day was still going to be applicable a year from then," he said.

By comparison, Saskatoon's population jumped by 14,000 people between 2015 and 2017.

Cooper says the challenge is finding what the public wants from its police service, and then finding a way to deliver it.

It's adopting new technologies such as automatic license plate readers, photo radar and online crime reporting. It also recognizes that companies are hiring private security services, and that initiatives such as community support officers take some pressure off staffing.

But he said there are also neighbourhoods in the city where a visible, uniformed presence is desired.

"I think our police service has to look at what's available in the community, what the community expectations are, and how do we build something that's appropriate for Saskatoon," he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.

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