Regina Police Service asks for $3.6M budget increase after calls to defund

·3 min read
The Regina Police Service's proposed budget put forward last week and the first after a summer of calls to defund police across North America, saw an increase over last year's spending. (Tyler Pidlubny/CBC - image credit)
The Regina Police Service's proposed budget put forward last week and the first after a summer of calls to defund police across North America, saw an increase over last year's spending. (Tyler Pidlubny/CBC - image credit)

In its first budget since calls to defund it, Regina Police Service is asking for more money.

The proposed police budget was released Friday and RPS is asking for just over $89.2 million — a $3.6 million increase from the 2020 budget.

In 2020, advocates called for the service to be defunded, with the money going to other community-based organizations and supports.

City councillor for Ward 3, Andrew Stevens, sits on the board of police commissioners. He said while he approves the budget as a board of police commissioners member, the budget did not signal his support as a city councillor.

"It's certainly weighing on me, I heard from a number of residents around the need to invest in the social determinants of health, [and] to address the reality that much of what the police are responding to are non-criminal in nature," Stevens said.

"I have been receiving calls and emails about that."

The budget report said eight new police officers will be hired as well as three total civilian positions — two for the communications centre as a dispatcher and one in human resources.

"With a clear vision, defendable list of priorities and pressures focused on performance measures, the RPS expects additional resources will enhance public safety, police visibility, service delivery and employee wellness," the report said.

When contacted, a spokesperson for RPS said the service wouldn't comment on the proposed budget ahead of the approval meetings slated for the end of this month.

Stevens said while it can be difficult to deal with social problems on a municipal level, he thinks there is room to invest in programs and grants that go to organizations to help address the issues.

He said he is currently looking at what it would cost to fund other programs and alternatives while having discussions with the community.

"Given the cost we know per new officer, what if we invested half of that equivalent into community supports and community organizations, what would that look like?" Stevens said.

"I'm incorporating the messages I'm receiving from the community, the defund movement being one of them, but among others like what kind of community grants, what organizations need the support?"

He said a question he's asking is if there is a need for eight new police officers or can it be balanced with other funding priorities like grant programs that go to organizations like White Pony Lodge and the Warming Station.

"These are all very important organizations, I think that it is time that we start thinking about funding them more effectively, especially where provincial support is lacking," Stevens said.

He said since 85 per cent per cent of the budget is associated with labour, it's not surprising the proposed budget is more than last year's.

"For the most part this is pretty status quo and I think we're going to be seeing this as the same every year until we get a grasp of some of those other problems the defund movement and others are addressing," Stevens said.

Advocate says money should go to healing

Pamela Blondeau, an advocate for Indigenous rights, lives in Regina and wants to see the proposed money go toward healing police officers who may be suffering from PTSD.

"If [police officers] come from a middle-class family, I think a lot of the hate generates from that, they see what's going on in the inner city communities and often it's not a good thing," Blondeau said.

"I think anybody gets traumatized from those things even if you live in the inner city."

In the proposed budget, there is an allocation of $30,000 for a one-time increase for equipment required for the PTSD Research project.

Blondeau said she'd also like to see the funds go toward homelessness and preventative measures for MMIWG.

Council will begin to consider the proposed budget on March 24 at 1 p.m. CST.