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Calgary Police make pitch for budget increase during belt tightening budget

Chief Roger Chaffin asks for $14.7 million to hire more officers, lease body-worn cameras

Chief Roger Chaffin said the force is in need of investments to keep service levels stable.

Metro File / Metro

Chief Roger Chaffin said the force is in need of investments to keep service levels stable.

The Calgary Police Service was under the microscope Monday as Calgary City Council held the first day of its week-long budget deliberations.

Chief Roger Chaffin and Calgary Police Commission (CPC) Chair Brian Thiessen made their pitch to council to get $14.7 million added to the budget.

The ask, in reality, is closer to $20.8 million, as administration pitched a scenario that included policing cuts of $6.5 million in order to avoid tax increases.

However when it comes to policing, the chief and commissioner argued that tax dollars invested into the service would be money well spent.

Graphs showing the spike in certain types of crime, such as break and enters, auto theft and domestic violence were displayed for councillors Monday.

“First and foremost we have to start supporting our frontline officers - the pressures they’re under, the stress they’re under, in order to meet the demands of the day,” said Chaffin.

In order to do that without new hires, the chief explained how they’ve been looking at getting civilians into some management roles, and getting officers back on the front lines

Chaffin explained that the ratio of officers to city population has dropped since 2012. While there was one officer for every 598, there is now one for every 628.

“The important piece to say here is that the workload of 2012 is not the workload of 2018,” said Chaffin. “Policing is far more complex.”

The budget, however, is already stretched thin. Of the force’s budget, 84 per cent goes to salaries while 14 per cent covers fixed costs such as equipment and infrastructure.

That leaves only 2 per cent for discretionary spending and Chaffin said he’s hearing from citizens that they want more preventative measures, and officers working with youth to prevent crime from happening down the road.

Chaffin said the force is committed to working smart, rather than just adding to the ranks.

“Our goal is to reduce crime,” said Chaffin. “Our goal is not to create a heavy, militarized presentation to the community. Our goal is to get out and find ways to reduce this from the prevention side first and foremost.”

When asked by Coun. Ward Sutherland if they’ve had to reduce their school resource officers, Chaffin responded that they hadn’t, nor had they increased the number either - something he would like to do.

Although CPS’s ask for $14.7 million would include hiring about 48 new officers, it would also help cover the cost of body-worn cameras. The force is now looking at leasing those - with servicing and storage - at a cost of $2 million per year, rather than purchasing new cameras every three years.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the force’s ask is reasonable, although he wants to drill down on the numbers for body worn cameras.

“Calgary remains an extraordinarily safe city - every street in the city remains extraordinarily safe. Crime rates are much lower than when I was a kid growing up here.”

He noted there have been spikes related to the economic downturn and the fentanyl crisis. “I’m quite sympathetic to the need of addressing those two things.”

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