Saskatoon police Chief Troy Cooper said city council’s decision to cut nearly $200,000 from a recent budget proposal likely means the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) will have to delay bringing on new staff — the hiring of which is required by a collective bargaining agreement with the officers’ union.
Speaking to the Board of Police Commissioners on Wednesday morning, Cooper said the reduced funds would likely mean delaying hiring five new special constables, civilian positions the SPS agreed to create during recent contract talks with the Saskatoon Police Association (SPA).
“We will have to wait and see how this plays out,” SPA president Dean Pringle said via text.
Pringle said the association and police service leadership only discussed the framework for the new measures agreed to.
“They didn’t have a hard target (date) in mind… (t)he implementation dates, etc were up to their side,” he said.
Cooper advised the board to approve the new budget and send a memo back to city council explaining that the SPS will work towards reducing costs.
He said several times that the service’s commitment to public safety would not be affected.
“Our ability to finance some of those priorities has changed slightly but the priorities haven’t changed.
“We know what we heard from the community, I know what I’ve heard from the board. We’re going to continue on in that direction and if we have to make some adjustments to how those operations roll out then we’ll do that.”
Mayor Charlie Clark, a police commissioner, asked Cooper if the SPS would still be able to expand its police and crisis team (PACT).
“Our commitment is still that we’ll have two additional crisis teams in 2021,” Cooper replied.
Cooper, along with board chairperson Darlene Brander and vice-chairperson Carolanne Inglis-McQuay, requested an additional $498,300 to city council during last week’s budget deliberations. Most of the funding would go towards the salaries of the five special constables.
The police budget proposal states creating and filling the new positions would free up sergeants for other police duties.
Coun. Hilary Gough proposed a motion to cut two-fifths of that request, which is $199,300.
The council approved the reduced amount during deliberations that focused mostly on lowering expenses and therefore the property tax increase residents will have to pay next year.
Cooper said the current police budget for 2021 is $104,211,100.