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‘It’s time for the police to show us cost savings’: Mayor Nenshi

It’s time for the Calgary police to look at cost cuts said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

Amid ongoing economic woes compounded by the COVID-19 situation and calls to defund the police, Mayor Nenshi told reporters that the Calgary police will need to participate in city cost cutting.

“I’ve made it extremely clear, my opinion on the matter to the police chief,” said Nenshi.

“Every other department at the city has faced austerity over the last six years, and it is time for the police to show us cost savings.”

The Calgary Police operating budget was over $400 million in 2019, making it the largest operational budget for the city.

“We cannot go into the kind of budget we’re looking at and as many savings for taxpayers as possible without looking at the largest line item in our budget,” said Nenshi.

In comparison, the operational budget for Calgary Transit was approximately $243 million, and the operational budget for the Calgary fire department was $217 million.

Reallocating resources

Aside from potential budget cuts, Nenshi also emphasized the need for better systems and response times from city institutions.

“I’ve been very clear on the fact that we need a better mental health response system,” said Nenshi.

He suggested that the city could reallocate funds from the police budget to other civic organizations.

“We need different work that does a better job on fighting institutional racism in the city, and perhaps some of that funding could come from the police,” Nenshi said.

Engaging the people

The City of Calgary has put out a survey in an attempt to engage the public with the proposed budget adjustments in November. It’s part of their Solutions for Achieving Value and Excellence (SAVE) Program.

“There are four specific ideas, in addition to the normal cuts that we’re looking at,” said Nenshi.

Those ideas are increasing fire response times by 30 seconds, the ability to offer city services online and digitally, transit and parking, and the level to which we fund non-profit organizations in the city.

“We’re really interested in hearing what people have to say about those,” said Nenshi.

Earlier this week, the Calgary Fire Department suggested that cuts to fire service were misguided. The increase in fire response times would lead to more loss of property and loss of life.

Calls for a progressive solution

Mayor Nenshi also emphasized the need for Calgarians to provide constructive budget solutions – including for police.

“Don’t just say defund the Police,” he said.

“Tell us what you want to build. Tell us the kind of system that would work better.”

On Sep. 10, city council will hold a special meeting with the Calgary police.

Mayor Nenshi said it will be a good opportunity to further this conversation and have a meaningful and constructive discussion.