Edmonton Police Department to receive $ 10.9 million less than planned in 2022, funding will be redirected to community safety initiatives


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The Edmonton Police Department will receive $ 10.9 million less than expected in 2022 after city council voted to reduce the previously approved budget increase.

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During deliberations on the 2022 budget on Wednesday, the council elected to reallocate $ 10.9 million from the planned increase of $ 11.9 million to homelessness and community safety initiatives in an effort to reduce calls for service to which the police respond. The police service will still see an increase of $ 1 million over the 2021 allocation, to account for the cost of staff time on the new National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, bringing its annual budget to 384.8 millions of dollars. This total increase of $ 11.9 million in the overall city budget is equivalent to 0.7% of the proposed 1.8% increase in property taxes.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the decision was important to ensure the funding is used effectively to keep the community safe. With several years of budget increases and the largest item in the city’s $ 3.1 billion annual operating budget, Sohi said the police budget could not continue to climb as services in the city other city were facing cuts or freezes.

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“I think Edmontonians understand that we need to have a comprehensive, coordinated and integrated approach to community safety where policing will play a role, but at the same time we need to make sure that we actually reduce the need for policing by investing. in prevention, investing in housing, investing in the fight against mental health problems, ”he said. “We need to make sure there is a coordinated approach and that we get the results we need to achieve to keep every Edmontonian safe.

Edmonton Police Department Chief Dale McFee did not comment on the loss of funding on Wednesday, but told council last week the department had already suffered many blows thanks to $ 7.3 million in additional annual ongoing costs, including a reduction in road safety revenues due to a larger cut taken by the province. McFee said any other changes could impact service levels, highlighting police presence on the transit system and speed enforcement as two areas that could be affected.

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Due to the unexpected costs of COVID-19 this year, the service projects a deficit of $ 6.2 million and does not have enough funds in the police reserve to fill it. City finance officials have said the service will need to present a plan to replenish the reserve within three years or apply to council for additional funding.

Borough Council Anirniq Erin Rutherford, who introduced the motion to cut the budget by $ 10.9 million, said it was not clear what the cut in funding would mean for police budget decisions 2023-2026 next fall, but wants the police to work within the current budget they have. and absorb the increase in costs rather than continually asking for more money.

“While we don’t know the answers, neither can we continue to write a blank check,” she said, noting that the board is not being made aware of the exact destination of the funding and that this depends on the commission.

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The Council requested more data to highlight where the money is going and how the funding increases are contributing to community safety, which the Council said. Aaron Paquette said he was not available. He said he would like to see an audit conducted on the benefits of money spent by police and potentially tie some funding to performance.

Wednesday’s reallocation of funds follows the previous council’s decision to withdraw $ 11 million from the police budget. The $ 21.9 million will now be made available to the council for community safety efforts, but no long-term decisions have been made on how the funding will be used or how the city will measure its success. .

Plans to redirect funds are expected early next year when city officials report on their work on the recommendations of the Community Safety and Well-being Task Force. The task force predicted that 32 percent of calls answered by police are “needy” calls that could be better handled by community agencies.

Discussions on the Council’s budget are expected to end on Friday.

duscook@postmedia.com

twitter.com/dustin_cook3

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