After a two-and-a-half hour discussion on immediate and future policing needs in Regina, city council approved the $96 million budget for 2020 presented by the Board of Police Commissioners.
Regina Police Service Chief Evan Bray told municipal politicians Tuesday night during budget deliberations that he was confident in what was outlined, but that the organization is “bursting at the seams in a couple of areas.”
The comment followed an unsuccessful motion brought forward by Coun. Jerry Flegel, who wanted to send the police budget back to the board for review, calling it inadequate.
Flegel cited statistics situating Regina as a high-crime city and questioned the police chief on the reality officers are facing on a daily basis.
The number of police officers in Regina has not kept pace with the growth of the city, Bray said.
The 2020 budget adds four officer positions and six civilian positions.
If the board had more funding, Bray said he would like to see it bolster the frontline.
“I feel like that’s where the pressure is right now,” he said.
Complex social issues are causing recidivism that lead the chief to worry about the well-being of his officers.
“We’re facing higher call volumes. We’re facing risk in the community like we’ve never seen before,” Bray said. “It sometimes is frightening to me.”
Coun. Sharron Bryce questioned why the board wouldn’t include funding for 45 additional officers if that’s what the police service needs.
“We put forward a budget this year that we tried to measure in metre based on what we felt there would be an appetite to support,” said Bray, who noted it has been three years since the force has added officers who weren’t to replace those lost through retirement or attrition.
“We’ve tried to do internal trimming and readjusting where we can,” he said.
Flegel, noting he could not direct the Board of Police Commissioners, suggested that an additional $260,000 this year could grow the force by seven or eight officers.
Council does not have the ability to “break open” the police budget, said the mayor, who is the chair of the Board of Police Commissioners. Couns. Joel Murray and Barbara Young are members.
Flegel voiced frustration over the fact that council as a whole is by and large left out of discussions about the needs of the police, a city-funded service.
It was a sentiment echoed by Coun. John Findura, who added that it would have been beneficial to talk about the issues facing the police service six months ago.
“I don’t want to do this at the 11th-and-a-half hour,” Findura said. “We need to pass this budget.”
Council approved the proposed net operating budget of $85.6 million for the Regina Police Service ($10.4 million is accounted for in revenue). But it also sent a referral to the Board of Police Commissioners to look more closely at ways to address both social determinants of crime and officer shortfalls in the lead up to the 2021 budget.
“We want to see more resources put in in a more concentrated way,” said the mayor. “This is a shift of a perspective by council that wasn’t there before.s
“We’ve moved into a much more generous and a much larger perspective of how we can deal with the social determinants of crime as well as officers on the street.”
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