“Cadillac” level of service not sustainable, says president of the Waterloo Region Police Association
By Charlotte Prong Parkhill
Kitchener Post staff
Despite a seven per cent budget increase, the police service will see its first cut to the number of officers in at least 12 years.
On Wednesday, the police services board gave final approval to the 2013 budget, which increases to $135 million from the $126 million budget in 2012.
But despite the sharp increase, at least eight officers who retire or resign in 2013 will not be replaced.
Police services board chair Tom Galloway said it’s not the first time in his dozen years at the table that no officers have been added, but it is the first time the number of officers has been cut.
He points out that salaries, wages and benefits are about 90 per cent of the total budget, and they’re going up faster than the rate of inflation.
“I’ve often been on record as saying the way we fund police and the way we do policing is not sustainable in the long term, and the evidence is quite tangent,” Galloway said.
“You can either pay for the services and get the Cadillac services, which you get right now, or we can cut back some of those services and deliver the absolutely necessary services,” said Bruce Tucker, president of the Waterloo Region Police Association.
A first-class constable makes about $83,000 a year.
“I’m not going to dispute that we get paid a good wage,” Tucker said.
But the total salary cost is also a reflection of the number of hours police spend completing the required paperwork for investigations, he said.
“When I joined (the police service) 35 years ago, we had a set of procedures to do for average, everyday investigations,” he said.
Because of additional requirements handed down from the provincial and federal governments, those investigations now take longer.
“It’s a hidden cost for the public,” Tucker said. “What used to take two hours now takes six hours.”
There are also more government-mandated training requirements for officers.
Tucker said he’s not disputing the need for the training or the paperwork, but said there should be funding provided for it.
“The police services board, the police service, have never seen any compensation for that from the province,” he said. “That means the local taxpayer is bearing the burden.”
It’s too soon to tell whether a new shift schedule, which started in December, will help to reduce overtime costs.
“I think the police services board is looking at this as a panacea to their staffing woes. It’s a bandage, but it’s a much-needed bandage,” Tucker said.
Galloway said the cost issue is also related to the calls for service. Despite a dropping crime rate, the number of calls to police continues to rise.
“People expect responses to those calls for service, and we need to be able to lower people’s expectations to some extent,” he said.
“You might not get an officer to come to your house because someone has egged your house, or done something relatively minor. You can report that online.”