Several Moncton councillors appeared supportive of adding five more Codiac Regional RCMP officers next year.
"There is a crisis," Coun. Daniel Bourgeois said Tuesday. "We've had this four years now where we need, on an emergency basis, on a crisis basis, more boots on the ground."
Councillors began debating the city's 2023 budget Tuesday, with more than an hour spent on the policing issue.
At issue was a recommendation by the Codiac Regional Policing Authority to add 25 officers and 14 civilian support staff over three years. Its budget needs approval by Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview councils.
Moncton Coun. Charles Leger moved a motion to fund the positions, but keep the money in a reserve account until a policing services study is complete next year.
However, Coun. Susan Edgett withdrew her support for the motion by the end of the discussion and the motion died. Instead, councillors will vote later this week on a motion to add the officers.
Moncton's portion of the policing authority budget could increase $4.3 million, or 15 per cent, over last year if the motion is approved.
Even if no additional staff are approved, the board has said it still needs an increase of $3.8 million for things like equipment replacement and inflation.
Deputy Mayor Bryan Butler asked if the existing police force with 147 officers is adequate.
"We do not believe that it is adequately staffed based on the engagement process we did this year," Don Moore, chair of the policing authority, said.
"It's gonna start to help, but it's not gonna be able to address everything that's being asked of us," said Codiac RCMP acting Supt. Benoit Jolette, saying he believes they need the full 25 the policing authority requested.
Coun. Charles Leger asked Codiac's commanding officer what tangible difference the extra officers would make.
Jolette said with extra officers he could increase community policing to address visibility and other concerns residents voiced.
"It's not gonna disappear. But right now, currently, who is answering that call? It's us," Jolette said of calls about issues like homelessness.
Jolette said the positions could be shifted to other units depending on daily needs.
"The one thing we cannot do is not answer 911s," Jolette said.
Councillors have faced competing requests on the issue of police spending.
At Monday's council meeting several people called for freezing or reducing police spending while a representative of downtown businesses said more patrols are needed.
Among the items in the policing authority's budget request is $400,000 for contracting support services.
Jolette said the money could be used to ensure officers have support services around issues of homelessness, such as YMCA's ReConnect, that they can call 24/7 to help people.
The policing authority budget also needs to be approved by councils in Dieppe and Riverview. Moncton covers 71 per cent of the policing authority budget.
Votes expected Thursday
During a later portion of the meeting, city staff told council that construction of a new $57 million RCMP station in the city remains on budget and is still expected to be complete in early 2025.
Moncton staff proposed a 2023 operating budget with a 10.3 cent tax cut.
Several councillors indicated they may seek to reduce that tax cut to fund various things, including a social issues fund to respond to urgent needs like grants to non-profits providing services to homeless people. A similar proposal by Leger last year failed to gain enough support.
Councillors continue budget deliberations Wednesday. Votes on motions, including on the policing budget, will take place Thursday.