Calgary could see its 50 provincially funded police officers by mid next year, pending the approval of a funding agreement, according to the city’s police chief.
Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld said that’s what they’re counting on, as he answered questions Tuesday during continued City of Calgary budget deliberations.
The city’s different business units were quizzed Tuesday as day 2 of the 2024 Calgary budget adjustments went ahead. Day 1 focused on public submissions. In this section of budget deliberations, councillors had their chance to dig into budget specifics with the different department heads.
On a question from Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean about expected additional officers in 2024, Chief Neufeld said they believe the provincially supported recruits could be onboarded by the second quarter of next year. CPS is also slated to add 290 new full-time positions (though not all are front-line officers) over the next four years (2023-2026 budget cycle).
“We’re just in negotiations with the funding agreement for that,” Chief Neufeld said.
“As you’re probably aware those 50 officers are intended to be forward-facing resources as well that are committed to working alongside and augmenting the transit strategy and public spaces generally in hotspots in the city.”
Chief Neufeld said that it’s a complicated calculus to determine the right number of officers, given the added pressures to the Calgary Police Service (CPS), offset somewhat by the new call diversion partnerships and the integrated transit safety plans.
Coun. Chabot asked whether service levels were adequate to handle challenges around increased shootings, gang violence and the complexity of dealing with geopolitical protests.
Chief Neufeld said they had enough resources to handle most of the issues. He followed up by saying that if all of the “very significant issues” continue to happen at once, they have adequate resources for a finite amount of time.
“I feel sometimes we’ve got a queen size bed and the double bedspread and every time we pull it over to cover this particular issue, we’re exposing something on the other side, and we’re doing that at the expense of the folks that are actually doing the work,” he said.
In the most recent CPS employee survey, 88 per cent indicated “low agreement” with the statement that Calgary police are adequately staffed.
‘Enough runtime’ on the 50 additional officers: Coun. Demong
Coun. Demong pressed further on the additional 50 officers, which were first announced just prior to the spring 2023 election. He asked how those officers were going to be funded and for how long. To date, there have been no specific answers.
“Lord knows they’ve gotten enough runtime on that, announcing it many, many times since the election,” he said.
“My question though is how is that funding going to be working out? Like are they funding it for a year, for five years, for their careers? I’m quite curious because all I ever hear is that they’re funding 50 officers.”
Chief Neufeld said that they received a draft agreement back as early as yesterday. While negotiations are ongoing, he presumed it would be structured similarly to other provincial policing grants.
“What I would say is if we look back to the other grants, the police grants in the province, those are sustainable grants for the long term with agreements around notifications if the grant was to change, so that organization could make adjustments, if need be,” he said.
“So, I think it’ll be something similar to that going forward.”
The province confirmed the funding talks are ongoing.
“Alberta’s government continues to be engaged with a working group consisting of the City of Calgary, Calgary Police Commission and Calgary Police Service to finalize a funding agreement that will support the hiring and onboarding of 50 new frontline police officers in Calgary,” read an emailed statement from Arthur Green, press secretary to Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis.
“In the meantime, we continue to work closely with the City and the CPS to support solutions for combatting violence and crime and ensuring that Calgarians feel safe.”