Calgary city council has decided to fund alternative call response through its fiscal reserve instead of the Calgary police budget.
The decision was made after two days of debate and amendments on the city’s largest – $400 million – line item.
Councillors agreed on the Community Safety Investment Framework’s terms of reference, and then to fund it. Ultimately, councillors landed on leaving the $8 million in the Calgary Police Service budget and instead drawing the money from the Fiscal Sustainability Reserve.
The plan submitted by the Calgary Police Commission earlier this month had earmarked cash in the police budget to be diverted to alternative call response. Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld told councillors earlier this year that the police weren’t always the best people to respond to calls.
During budget debate, Chief Neufeld said there are calls the CPS shouldn’t be attending.
“Over the years, we’ve become the default first responder for a variety of social issues given the lack of alternatives for a 24/7 response,” he said.
The amendments were submitted to address concern over the impact to the work police were already doing in the community if the funding were removed. Chief Neufeld outlined that impact earlier in the budget debate.
“We know our community wants us to support officers, but we know our community wants us to invest in a framework that addresses a lot of the problems we’re having,” said Coun. Jeff Davison.
“And we know that they don’t want a tax increase, and this achieves all of those things.”
Amendments voted down
The amendment by Coun. Joe Magliocca to allow $10 million to remain in the CPS budget for 60 new CPS members was rejected by councillors.
Coun. Magliocca wanted the cash for this to be added to the Calgary tax base.
(A motion arising from Coun. Jeff Davison, later in the budget debate, did allow CPS to access cash for hiring needs, should it be required.)
Coun. Jeromy Farkas wanted to keep the funding for the extra personnel by taking it from the recently increased arts and culture funding.
The CPS had indicated that it would be difficult to fill the recruit classes due to ongoing COVID-19 challenges. Several councillors questioned why we’d approve the funding when the CPS would have difficulty in allocating it.