Critics are taking aim at Montreal city officials for boosting the size of the Montreal police department budget by tens of millions of dollars for 2023.
The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) is receiving a 2023 budget of $787 million, a record amount.
It’s also $63 million more than what was budgeted in 2022, or a 8.7-per cent hike.
“(A) $63-million increase is the largest budget increase for the police in the history of Montreal. It’s totally out of whack with what other large cities in Canada are doing,” Ted Rutland, a professor at Concordia University who studies police operations across Canada, told Global News.
Rutland argues the size of the SPVM budget needs to be reined in and have some of the money reallocated toward community policing.
“Eighty per cent of 9-1-1 calls have nothing to do with crime. They’re calls for social assistance. And those kinds of calls are best responded to by civilian response team,” Rutland said.
Read more: Taxes, spending up in Montreal 2023 budget
Other people who work with racialized communities agree, saying police working closer with the public helps prevent crime.
“Crime affects everyone and I think it takes an entire community to be able to look for solutions,” Kemba Mitchell, a community, youth and social justice advocate, told Global News.
Violent crime involving guns and gangs has increased in Montreal in recent years, according to a 2021 SPVM police report.
Montreal city officials defend the budget increase, attributing a lot of it to the planned hiring of more officers next year.
“Most of the amount is the result of financial assistance that we received from the provincial government to hire more policemen,” Dominique Ollivier, president of Montreal’s executive committee, told Global News.
Working closely with community groups as a crime prevention tool is on the radar of the incoming SPVM chief, Fady Dagher.
The media team of the SPVM sent an email to Global News declining to comment on its budget until officials appear before Montreal’s finance commission, scheduled Dec. 6.