Calgary’s police chief says proposed cuts to the service’s budget would have an impact on Calgarians.
Chief Mark Neufeld spoke before city council on Tuesday, as councillors reviewed possible scenarios as they prepare to finalize the city’s 2020 budget.
One of those scenarios involves a property tax freeze, which would potentially mean an $8.5 million cut to the police budget.
Neufeld said an $8.5 million cut to the police budget could lead to the service cutting about 85 positions.
“Certainly there will be some damage — the question is what kind of damage can we live with?” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said. “How much impact is that going to have on people’s safety and people’s lives?”
Neufeld said if the service has to lay off staff, most would be civilians and not front-line officers.
“What it means is that we’ve got to move away from some of the good work that we’re doing in the areas of prevention and intervention and partnerships, and basically just make sure that we’re reacting to calls,” Neufeld said.
“I know neither council nor the citizens want us to be a reactive police service. We see that in the surveys that we see, where people value the engagement they have with the Calgary Police Service. They value the prevention work that we do.”
The CPS gets the largest share of tax dollars in the city budget.
Other scenarios councillors are considering include a three per cent property tax increase and a 1.5 per cent property tax increase.
It’s expected that neither of those options would bring police layoffs.
But Nenshi said council should remain open to all budget scenarios.
“We heard an idea today on the floor of council that we should have a lockbox around essential services and we’re not allowed to touch that budget,” Nenshi said.
“That is the worst possible idea because it doesn’t allow you to have any incentives to manage your costs. We need to be able to manage costs well, and frankly, the police have not had to deal with cost reductions to the same extent as others.”
Councillors are spending the week considering budget options that would bring cuts to many city departments.
“We are cutting everyone else,” Nenshi said. “The smaller departments by much more in order to protect police and fire as much as possible.”