Province earmarks $4.16M for plan to hire 50 new Calgary officers

Click to play video: 'Province earmarks $4.16M to help fund 50 new police officers in Calgary'
Province earmarks $4.16M to help fund 50 new police officers in Calgary
Calgary is set to recruit 50 additional police officers next year funded by the provincial government. As Adam MacVicar reports, the plan is to deploy the first 25 officers within the next few months. – Dec 13, 2023

The Government of Alberta has committed funding for the Calgary Police Service to move forward with a plan to hire 50 additional police officers next year.

Provincial officials first announced the plan to fund new police officers in Calgary and Edmonton prior to the spring election; however, Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis and Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld revealed details Wednesday of how those officers will be funded and deployed.

“Officer presence matters,” Ellis said to a news conference at Calgary Police headquarters. “If you are an offender, you are less likely to commit a crime knowing that you see a uniformed police officer in and around where you are.”

$4.16 million will be allocated to start hiring the additional officers; that funding includes $1.11 million for officer salaries and benefits, $2.5 million for one-time costs like vehicles, uniforms, radios and workstations and $550,000 for ongoing technology and support costs.

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Neufeld said the first 25 officers will be recruited and trained as soon as January to be deployed to “high-crime areas” along Calgary’s transit network and the downtown core.

Calgary’s police chief said the prioritized deployment of the additional officers would be focused across three districts in the city. Global News

The officers will create capacity for officers to proactively work with what Neufeld calls “high-systems users.”

“We have the tools to address violent offenders, but we lack the resources and the ability to sustain those efforts to address those who cause people to feel unsafe and those who perhaps don’t cross into a serious criminal threshold,” Neufeld said. “What I mean by that is individuals who continue to struggle with addictions and mental health, and some of their offending would be as serious on its own.”

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According to Neufeld, Calgary police officers have laid more than 3,300 criminal charges, effected more than 5,600 warrants and issued more than 3,600 tickets to people on and around the transit system and in public spaces.

Officers have also made many referrals to social agencies for those requiring those supports, Neufeld added.

“In working with our partners in the judicial and social support areas, we’re going to aim to provide a more individualized case management approach to effect real change in the lives of these individuals, and to lessen the impact that they’re having on the communities in Calgary,” Neufeld said.

Click to play video: 'Calgary Mayor on transit construction & safety, and ongoing affordability issues'
Calgary Mayor on transit construction & safety, and ongoing affordability issues

Mark Garner, executive director of the Calgary Downtown Association, said the investment in additional officers will help some of the ongoing issues in the downtown core.

Garner said more than 26 windows have been smashed at several downtown businesses over the last two weeks.

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“We need some improvements,” he said. “We need to see these issues addressed because this cannot be the cost of being a business owner downtown.”

Funding for the remaining 25 officers will be determined as part of the province’s 2024-25 budget process, Ellis said, with recruitment expected by mid-2024.

Ellis confirmed the funding for the 50 officers would be permanent, sustainable and ongoing, and wouldn’t fall on city coffers.

“We made that commitment, it’s a commitment that we stand by,” Ellis said. “Under this government we’re going to support our law enforcement communities and make sure they have the predictable and sustainable funding especially as it pertains to this initiative.”

Click to play video: 'Calgary police chief responds to weekend violence in Falconridge'
Calgary police chief responds to weekend violence in Falconridge

When asked about the funding, Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek said the city needs to look at the funding framework.

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“I’m incredibly grateful that the provincial government is stepping up and providing us with more officers,” Gondek said. “We do need to look at the model of how we’re going to sustain this because the costs that are attached to hiring new officers will carry on.”

Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong, who also sits on the Calgary Police Commission, said he’s heard from residents there is a “definite need” for targeted patrols.

“The recent break-ins in the downtown core exemplifies the need for more on-street patrols,” Wong said. “The rise of encampments and LRT station issues further highlight areas where additional services can be provided.”

According to Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian, the root causes of crime will also need to be addressed before the ongoing societal issues unfolding on city streets can be quashed.

“We’re happy to see more officers and as a city we’re always there to provide that,” Mian said. “But until we see real movement on addictions and mental health and real movement on housing, I don’t think we’re ever going to see any resolution to these issues.”

On Tuesday, the province announced $8.3 million in funding for the same initiative to hire 50 new officers in Edmonton.

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Ellis said the reason for the difference in funding comes down to a difference in recruiting cycles between the two cities, as well as the fiscal year; ending March 31, 2024.

“We won’t receive any less money than Edmonton to cover the 50 net new officers,” Neufeld said. “It will just be a question of when the fiscal year ends and when the money comes.”

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