Calgary city council votes in favour of $6M budget increase for police

·3 min read
CPS already had budget approval for 60 new positions in 2022. However, Police Chief Mark Neufeld says with additional workload and a record number of officers off on leave — about 275 in total — the resources are needed. (Mike Symington/CBC - image credit)
CPS already had budget approval for 60 new positions in 2022. However, Police Chief Mark Neufeld says with additional workload and a record number of officers off on leave — about 275 in total — the resources are needed. (Mike Symington/CBC - image credit)

City council voted 11-4 on Tuesday to boost the budget of the Calgary Police Service (CPS) by $6.1 million next year, but both councillors on the Calgary Police Commission (CPC) and the mayor were among those who voted against it.

The CPC recommended the budget increase, saying it is needed to allow CPS to hire 38 additional staff.

The new hires will include 13 new police officers, while the rest will be civilian positions.

CPS already had budget approval for 60 new positions in 2022.

However, Police Chief Mark Neufeld says with additional workloads and about 275 officers off on leave — a record number that includes maternity, paternity, sickness and stress leaves — the resources are needed.

"We have many challenges coming at us, at a time when our people are telling us: their tanks are empty," Neufeld said.

"We need this investment to stabilize the ship."

Ward 6 Coun. Richard Pootmans, who supported the increase, said constituents had told him this was a matter of importance.

"This is exactly what residents that I spoke to during the election … were very interested in hearing about: boots on the ground, protection for their homes and families," Pootmans said.

"So, this is a perfect fit for what, I think, [the] people I represent were looking for."

Fiscal discipline, anti-racism initiatives cited among opposition voters

However, Mayor Jyoti Gondek, Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott, Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra and Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner voted in opposition to the budget increase.

Carra — who is on the police commission, along with Walcott — said he would not be supporting the increase in spite of his deep concern for those on the front lines during COVID-19.

He does not have enough confidence in the service's commitments to fiscal discipline and anti-racism initiatives, Carra said, to vote in favour of it.

Candidate photos
Candidate photos

"I … feel there hasn't been enough real movement and necessary integration of the transformation work and the anti-racism commitment to the day-to-day work of the service," Carra said.

"I think that we have to establish a baseline of fiscal discipline to drive all of this."

Walcott said the police budget has increased from $277 million in 2010 to $411 million in 2021, and the city has not held CPS spending to "any form of scrutiny."

"You've never seen their budget. Only police commission has seen their budget," Walcott said.

"This year, I'm just looking at everything that's on the table, and suggesting that maybe this is where we start. Maybe that's how we transform policing ... and make sure that we are seeing safety and we are seeing justice in the way that we expect."

For her part, Gondek said it is important to see progress on certain files, and for her, equity, diversity and inclusion is an important one.

"We have asked the police service to work on [that] over the years," Gondek said of her vote against the increase.

"I think they're getting there. I think they're working very hard to get there. I didn't necessarily see components of that in this ask [for more money]."

Council is still debating overall changes to 2022's budget. A final vote is still to come later this week.

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