Taxpayers want police to spend more time and money targeting Regina's social problems instead of purchasing a costly airplane for crime-fighting, one city councillor says.
Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens said he's hearing from citizens who are questioning why the Regina Police Service (RPS) needs to spend money on a plane.
"So far the calls and emails I've fielded have been in opposition to the aerial unit. People want less equipment and more engagement in the community with complex social problems," Stevens told CBC's The Morning Edition.
"There are still concerns generally about whether or not this kind of investment in technology versus people, social workers, mental health supports, addiction supports is worthwhile."
He cited Camp Hope, the tent encampment established in a Regina park this fall, as an example of the need for funding.
The Regina Police Service is asking for the plane and an aerial team as part of its proposed 2022 budget.
While it's unclear exactly how much the plane would cost, the capital budget proposal earmarks $547,500 for emergency services equipment, including the "purchase of an aircraft for the aerial support unit." That's about 10 per cent of the $5,139,000 outlined in the RPS 2022 capital budget.
The Saskatoons Police Service established an air support unit in 2005. Proponents say it has helped find lost and confused children and elderly people, and also assisted in making arrests.
Stevens said the public needs more time to examine the benefits to public safety and policing before approving the RPS funding request.
This isn't so much about the money, so much as it is an approach to policing and public safety that seems to be deviating from other approaches that we're discussing at the civic level."
Stevens said there are also operational costs associated with owning an airplane that are still unclear.
City council will vote on the police budget, which includes the plane, on Dec. 15.