Questions are once again being raised about how much is being spent on policing in the city of Montreal.
A study released Wednesday by L’Institut de recherche et d’informations socioéconomiques (IRIS) and the L’observatoire des inégalités raciales au Québec (OIRQ) claims that the rate of increase in funding for the Montreal police department is far higher than for other sectors.
“There’s a mismatch right now between where we put the money and where the needs are,” IRIS researcher Guillaume Hébert told Global News.
“In most of the cities of North America, actually.”
According to the report, Montreal’s police budget jumped by 169-per cent between 2002 and 2022, from $429 million to $724 million.
The researchers say their analysis shows that police budget increases don’t necessarily mean a reduction in crime. They argue some of those funds should be diverted elsewhere.
“To community service, mental health services,” said Hébert. “To put this money there would be much more useful and effective.”
For example, he pointed out, a large number of 911 calls that police get would have been handled better if they had been directed to another service.
“The police officers are not the best qualified to deal with many of the calls they receive,” he noted.
In the wake of the number of fatal interactions between police and civilians, community groups have demanded a reduction in police funding.
But not everyone agrees.
“To reduce today would be premature.”
He cautions that investing more in social services doesn’t have to mean diverting money from police, although he does agree that community groups need more support.
However, Alain Vaillancourt, the city’s executive committee member responsible for public security, said that the city’s administration is already increasing funding for social services to help bring the crime rate down.
“It’s a public health issue,” he stressed. “We can’t do it alone. That’s why we need the health sector, the educational sector to help us.”
Joel DeBellefeuille, founder and executive director of the civil rights organization, Red Coalition, said he isn’t surprised by the report and he’s been calling for similar things for years.
He’s impatient for the city to do more.
“Enough talking,” he said. A lot more action needs to happen. Quite frankly, that’s what it is.”