Calgary councillors want police compensated for calls outside city

Officers responded to reports of shots being fired at the CrossIron Mills shopping centre north of Calgary on Monday evening, according to police. Cami Kepke/ Global News

Calgary taxpayers can’t be left footing the bill to have police respond to calls outside the city limits. That was the message from Calgary councillors at city hall’s intergovernmental affairs committee meeting on Thursday.

The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board is comprised of the City of Calgary and a number of surrounding rural municipalities. The group set up a committee dealing with policing issues.

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Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the city is willing to have a conversation with the counties who he believes are questioning whether the RCMP is meeting their needs. Nenshi also said that any solution is one that doesn’t hit the citizens of Calgary in the pocket-book.

“We don’t want to end up in a situation where the Calgary Police Service are responding to calls in the neighbouring counties for businesses who deliberately set up in the county so they could pay lower property taxes and don’t have adequate policing,” Nenshi said Thursday

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Ward 11 Councillor Jeromy Farkas, Calgary city council’s appointed representative on the policing committee, said Calgary police should be willing to work with surrounding police forces.

“If there are some areas where we can collaborate, say Calgary police providing neighbouring municipalities to get training for specialized things, I’m open to that,” Farkas said.

“But it needs to be something that the city is getting a fair return on, rather than subsidizing the operations outside of our borders.”

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Farkas said Calgary police resources are stretched to the limit and he has a hard time seeing them respond to calls outside the city limits.

“These businesses are not paying taxes to the City of Calgary, but they’re relying a lot on city services,” Farkas said Thursday.

“We need to make sure police are given the resources that they need to be able to serve Calgarians first before we’re being asked to extend that service throughout the region.”

Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld echoed Farkas’ comments that the police service doesn’t have much room in their budget.

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“We’ve done everything internally that we can do in terms of trying to find efficiencies,” Neufeld told Global News Wednesday. “But the reality of our budget is that the vast majority of it — upwards of 80 per cent — has to do with people, salary and benefits.

“So it gets to the point where, if you’re going to keep reducing, it has to be in terms of people, which means service.”

Click to play video: 'Calgary police chief Mark Neufeld weighs in on the upcoming provincial budget'
Calgary police chief Mark Neufeld weighs in on the upcoming provincial budget

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