The 2013 police budget was finalized on Wednesday, and even with a seven per cent increase, the service will be losing at least eight positions this year.
How did it get to the point where the police budget goes up, but the number of officers goes down? With 90 per cent of the budget dedicated to wages and compensation, it gives the police chief Matt Torigian and the police board little wiggle room in balancing staffing with service demands.
Waterloo Region Police Association president Bruce Tucker asked regional politicians and police management to start a real conversation with the public about whether the region can still afford the “Cadillac” of police forces. If it continues this way, the region might be driving a “Corolla” instead of the fully-loaded police service it now operates.
Tucker acknowledged his membership is well paid. Compensation has jumped by 17 per cent in the past four years, outsripping inflation and the rest of the economy.
Some of that is due to flaws in the province’s arbitration system, where rich rewards earned by the biggest police services have trickled down to smaller ones. That will require a proper fix by the province, giving municipalities more power and flexibility in the bargaining process.
The province has other blame to bear in this state of affairs, as legislation and statutes have added to the cost of policing. Tucker said the time it takes an officer to complete an investigation has tripled, because of new requirements that police officers have to complete to bring a charge to resolution. The region also has to pick up additional staffing costs for the new courthouse. The region has managed to avoid major service cuts in its 2013 police budget, but without help from the province, it won’t be able to do so for much longer.