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Urgent needs addressed with Calgary police budget request: Chief Neufeld

Calgary’s police chief said their request for a budget increase will address the most urgent needs in both the service and the community for the upcoming year.

Chief Mark Neufeld defended the Calgary Police Service request for an additional $6.08 million in the proposed 2022 City of Calgary budget adjustments. That funding request tacks on an additional .5 per cent to the city’s proposed tax rate, bringing it to .99 per cent.

“I want to say that it’s been an extremely difficult decision to put forward a request for an increase to the 2022 budget,” Neufeld told reporters in a virtual meeting Monday afternoon.

Last year, the Calgary police submitted a budget reduction proposal that was ultimately approved by city council. In that proposal, the police gave up $10 million earmarked for 60 new recruits for 2021. They also diverted $8 million to explore alternative call models.

In the 2019-2022 four-year budget, CPS was already slated to get $10 million for 60 recruits in 2022. They want that money to remain intact. This additional cash will go towards 38 more recruits (for a total of 98 positions).  That would help make up just over half the CPS recruits lost last year.

Chief Neufeld said the reduction in revenues during COVID has made it difficult to absorb some of the operational changes they’ve made over the past 18 months.

He said the 98 new employees – a mixture of civilian and sworn officers – would address many high-need areas. They want to bolster community-based policing and engagement, particularly in diverse communities to improve investigative outcomes as it relates to violent gun crime. CPS employees with difficulties over the past 18 months are also in need of support, he said.

The new additions will allow them to better address some of the internal changes with respect to diversity and inclusion.

They also want to recruit officers.

A few questions: Coun. Walcott

Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott said he’s left wondering how, after last year’s conversations around policing, the Calgary police budget submission went from roughly $392 million to $417 million in a calendar year.

Walcott was one of the drivers behind Calgary’s Defund 2 Fund movement in 2020.

“I have to ask the questions, get the answers and see how it’s going to impact the people in the community,” he said.

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who sat on the Calgary Police Commission as they were forming the 2022 budget submission, said he challenged them on it. Then, he had to take a break from the commission due to the election.

He said part of the reason money was given up last year was because the CPS couldn’t spend it. COVID-19 restrictions made recruitment nearly impossible. Now they’re hoping to get the cash back to boost recruiting in 2022.

“The real conversation I think you’re going to see council engage with the police on is how much can you realistically spend in terms of topping up your waiting numbers this year?” Carra said.

“Then, where’s that money going? How does that fit into our strategy for anti-racism and beefing up alternative service delivery? That’s going to be a very lively conversation.”

Chief Neufeld said it was important to have stable, predictable funding. It allows better response to both internal and external changes, he said. It allows them to be more strategic moving forward.

“I want to reassure you there’s been an incredible amount of thought and scrutiny over this request,” he said.

Council will discuss the proposed 2022 budget adjustments from Nov. 22 – 26.