At a time when cash-strapped cities are bringing down austerity measures to rein in spending, police budgets have continued their steady growth, forcing civic leaders to make tough choices between funding law and order and paying for other major services.
Despite declining crime rates, spending on police forces – one of the largest single items on municipal ledgers – has risen 41-per-cent per capita across the country over the last decade for which Statistics Canada numbers are available. Much of that cost is being driven by police raises that consistently top the inflation rate.
A city-by-city comparison of police budget increases
The dilemma is stark: Let policing costs continue to rise and governments must make cuts elsewhere – whether road repairs, libraries or parks – to compensate.
“These issues are pretty serious for a city like ours that doesn’t have growth in revenue, but has growing costs,” said Alok Mukherjee, chair of the Toronto Police Services Board. “If [the rise of policing costs] continues, there will be no choice but to make tradeoffs between paying for police and paying for other services.”
Mr. Mukherjee himself is gearing up for what promises to be a tough round of negotiations with the local police union, slated to start later this month and coming on the heels of a year when Toronto’s police chief asked for a rise in his force’s budget, despite a directive from the city that all departments cut spending.
Rob Ford talks about why he doesn't plan on cutting funding to Toronto Police
Other cities, meanwhile, have begun to tackle the problem. Vancouver officials have opened more homeless shelters in a bid to reduce street crime, while police have shaved millions off the budget by delaying hiring new officers. Calgary’s police commission cut its proposed spending by $2-million after a new mayor and council determined to hold the line on costs.
“We have to find efficiencies in every department, and police and emergency services are not exempt from that,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “It’s like water: There are levels of treatment that are appropriate to keep our water safe; there’s an appropriate number of police to keep our streets safe.”
The savings, however, are a drop in the bucket. What’s needed, say experts, policy-makers and some police themselves, is nothing less than a rethinking of the structure of policing in Canada, with some duties handed to civilians and a reorganization of municipal and federal law-enforcement responsibilities.
But the road ahead is not easy.
Police unions argue vociferously against offloading officers’ jobs to non-police, while politicians, eager to assuage public concerns about crime and appeal to popular opinion, routinely approve added spending for law enforcement.
Looking to tackle Halifax’s crime rate – consistently one of the highest in the country – Mayor Peter Kelly launched a series of community consultations on the subject in 2006. He says the message from his constituents was unequivocal.
“Boots on the streets, boots on the streets, boots on the streets, that’s what we heard,” he said. “We have hired over 100 more police officers.”
Those new recruits helped drive up Halifax’s per capita police expenditures by 44 per cent over 10 years.
Every other major city saw an increase in that period, with Toronto’s spending growing by 34 per cent; Montreal and Vancouver chalking up rises of 24 per cent and, on the higher end, suburban York Region and Surrey, B.C., marking increases of more than 58 per cent each, fuelled by hiring sprees brought on by population growth.
One of the main reasons for the spikes in costs are the steadily increasing salaries for police officers, who are regularly given raises greater than the rise in the cost of living. Some officers in Edmonton, for instance, got a 4.5-per-cent raise in 2009, despite a local inflation rate that year of less than a percentage point.
When it comes time to negotiate new contracts, police unions and arbitrators look to match or top wages across the country. If one city gives police a generous raise, it drives up settlements in other municipalities.
“They all share their information,” said Richard Parent, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University and former police union vice-president. “So what goes on in Toronto goes on in Vancouver.”
The legal system also plays a part. In Ontario, for instance, the number of court dates necessary to get through a case has more than doubled since the early 1990s. As police receive as much as a full day’s pay for a single court appearance on a day off, even if it lasts just a few minutes, increases in court time translate into growing overtime budgets.
Police, at least anecdotally, also say the amount of time it takes to store and prepare evidence has increased, thanks in part to court rulings that make it necessary to turn over more to the defence and in part to the increase in DNA evidence and video surveillance, which takes more time to process.
When the RCMP, for instance, called unsuccessfully this week for a change in disclosure rules, top brass claimed such regulations had added a 40-per-cent cost to cases since 1991. Measures designed to improve police accountability – the need to submit reports on uses of force, for instance – also add time to the clock, police argue.
“It’s not just a police officer with his notebook coming to give testimony any more,” said Daryl Fridhandler, a Calgary lawyer who sits on the local police commission.
Municipal politicians also lay much of the blame for rising costs at the feet of the federal government, contending that local forces do work – such as protecting borders and ports, guarding consulates and investigating multi-jurisdictional organized crime – that should fall under federal authority.
“As [the RCMP] has had to deal with bigger-picture issues, you see that things that were once the purview of the national force get sent down to local municipalities,” said Berry Vrbanovic, a vice-president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
The FCM has called for the federal government to pay 10 per cent of each municipal force’s annual budget.
But the fix to which experts point most readily is organizing policing into tiers, paying people less for performing simpler jobs. This could be accomplished within a force, with officers manning the front desk at a station earning less than those responding to emergencies; it could also entail handing some tasks, such as directing traffic or filling out paperwork, to civilians.
Police unions roundly oppose the idea, arguing that a civilian directing traffic, for instance, can’t stop someone from running a red light or issue a ticket for speeding.
“When an officer’s directing traffic, he’s not just directing traffic. He’s also watching for other things,” said Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association.
And in the end, policymakers’ skittishness is also a barrier to cutting costs, as officers wield a tremendous amount of moral suasion with the public, benefiting from favourable portrayals in television crime dramas – a media image that has become ever more positive in the wake of 9/11.
“The last thing you want as a politician is to be labelled as anti-police or anti-cop, because people love the police,” Mr. Nenshi said. “We’re lucky in Calgary that the level of dialogue is better than that, but I can see how politicians would be scared.”
However, public support for police may be on shaky ground, at least in the country’s largest city, where mass arrests during last June’s G20 summit, coupled with Chief Bill Blair’s swiftly retracted rebuke of a beaten protester, earned a spate of bad publicity.
“In all my years of living in Toronto and paying attention to police, I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” said criminologist Mariana Valverde, who has studied media portrayals of police. “It’s a very rare event.”
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
12:00 AM on January 8, 2011
Its an national disgrace, a blatant abuse of power that police have stolen
from the public
and continue to charge ever Canadian.
What other profession can demand pay rises that are greater than inflation?
What other profession have effectively gained control of the political process?
Go to any major city in Canada and increasingly you will see flashing police lights and two cops standing watching construction workers in what is a national disgrace, A cartel like extortion racket whereby an increasing number of excuses are made by police to demand that police be hired, at many many times the rate of a private security guard to "watch" construction.
Toronto and Ottawa are two places where during day light hours, there is a sickening, increasing number of cops engaged in 'paid duty' that is like a money grab except we are all paying the price.
Then we have the Make Work Projects - the Domestic Violence Squads, Partner Assault Squads who gain "Arrest someone" mandates.
Its madness gone crazy. Any woman can threaten a man, assault a man and if he complains or threatens to call the police, SHE simply goes and alleges assaults going back years and the police without ANY corroborating evidence will generally in any major Canadian City will, lay charges.
This creates 'statistics' all of which are gross exaggerations, fabrications for the Police to justify their need.
The cost to society is staggering. Legal bills alone for the LEGAL CARTEL run 100 Billion a year.
Police Bills? Prison Bills? Court Operations costs? then these fathers who go to court to get access get thrown in the countries jails.
Real Crime Starts with those entrusted with the power in Canada who simply can't be trusted.
The worst abusers are the very people we should be able to trust.
If the Mafia, the Hells Angels or any crime group extorted a fraction of this amount we would never hear the end of it.
The worst criminals in Canada are "unreported crime" that is, the abusers from the top down. The corrupt judiciary who phone orders for motions like the Dishonourable Superior Court judges, Allan Sheffield, Denis Power, and provincial court judges like Richard Lajoie.
We need POLICE for POLICE, We need Police for the Judiciary.
When Police commit abuses of power, its accepted as normal and its a symptom of just how Canada is a Corrupt country with a Rule of Law, Justice System, Police system that is increasingly blatantly corrupt as they collective engage in the financial and legal rape of Canadians.
Its enough to make you want to puke.
A big thank you to Adrian Morrow and the Globe and Mail for publishing this
The likes of Julian Fantino and Police unions, will be spitting their collective soothers for anyone daring to point out how our police are engaging in their national pastime of extortion.
It is worth noting that the Ottawa Police over the last decade has had the
lowest increase in per capita spending than any other police force in Canada.
Despite that official statistic, the Ottawa Police is engaged in a constant propaganda war and has an incredible number of officers engaged in "paid duty" that is in effect official extortion by police. Virtually all paid duty could be performed by contractors such as construction workers or private security guards at a fraction of the cost.
The Ottawa Police run their high budget Partner Assault Squad that routinely arrests men without any evidence what soever of an assault.
Take for example one father whose wife changed into an old Tshirt before punching him the mouth, ripping her own TShirt before dialling 911 and running into the street.
Despite the injuries to her hand and blood dripping from his jaw, he was arrested and charged. That went to a FOUR DAY trial and cost the father 100,000 dollars.
After the trial, she agreed to pay most of his criminal legal bills rather than face a civil suit.
The Ottawa Police have been regularly sued for abuses of power and those law suits represent only a small fraction of those abuses.
It begs the question. If the Ottawa Police has had the lowest rate of increases, and engage in make work projects of massive numbers of frivilous criminal charges that end up costing them millions in legal bills and settlements, just how much would the Ottawa Police be able to SHAVE or SAVE if there existed a Police for the Ottawa Police?
It also begs the question as to why, there is not a real Police for the police across Canada and if those savings were invested in social safeguards then our crime rate and the need for police would again decrease by a staggering amount.
Just when is there going to be a single politician brave enough to take on Canada's national disgrace, our corrupt police forces who are engaged in the Financial Rape of Canadians.
Typical conservative mentality that criminalizes poverty, creates poverty
that keeps people in poverty. Take our homeless men. Each is only entitled to
$200 a month because 'the shelter' sleeping in a sardine packing room full of
coughing men is valued at $320 a month. It's that Mike Harris mentality that
The real criminals are those who unnecessarily make men unemployed and unable to pay their child support who end up in the countries concentration camps for men for the crime of having been born male and being a father.
This article should be "What's the price of corrupt policing"
For our corrupt policing costs, we can thank our gutless politicians.
Mr. Harper recently admitted that reducing GST was "good politics and bad policy"
That is, he knowingly made a bad policy decision, that will cost Canada billions in the long term but for his own short term political advantage.
Mr. Harper similarly talks like our new Minister for "Seniors", Julian Fantino, its a 'tough on crime' that provides increasing amounts of cash in the way of pay rises to police officers who have decreasing amounts of crime.
Draw the graphs, decreasing crime, increasing police costs, When is society going to wake up to the fact that the Police across Canada have their hands up our collective dresses?
It's our collective financial rape by our police.
Its enough to make your want to puke