Fund the police? Here’s a snapshot of how Canadian cities spend on policing

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TORONTO – A CTVNews.ca analysis of 18 of Canada’s largest cities, regions and provincial capitals found that more than half spent 15% or more of its 2020 operating budget on policing, the cities of ‘Western Canada predicting at least 20%. From coast to coast, from Vancouver to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canadian cities spend 15-20% or more of their budgets on law enforcement, most of which from municipal taxes. Cities that have no municipal strength were excluded from the analysis.

Cries to defeat police erupted in protests across the United States, sparked by the death of George Floyd, seen in a pleading and gasping video as a white Minneapolis policeman pressed one knee against his cou – long after he had already become silent.

Cities around the world and in Canada are also under pressure from the public to cut law enforcement budgets to reallocate funds to other areas, including mental health and social support services community.

However, this is a contentious issue. Premier Ontario Doug Ford has previously rejected the OPP idea, saying he believes in strengthening policing through better community involvement.

In the past few months, several deaths following Canadian police “welfare checks” have sparked further discussion about whether police officers are properly trained or even the appropriate authority to deal with them. caring for someone with a mental health crisis, especially black, aboriginal, or people of color.

In June, Ejaz Choudry, 62, was killed at his home by police in Mississauga, Ontario, after the family said they called a non-emergency helpline because he had a mental health episode. Paramedics who arrived called the police after Choudry was seen with a knife in his hand. Earlier in the month, Chantel Moore, an Aboriginal woman, was shot and killed by New Brunswick police during another wellness check, while Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a black Aboriginal woman, fell from the balcony of her apartment in Toronto last month while the police were at her house.

THE LARGEST POLICE BUDGET IN CANADA

In late June, Toronto city council rejected a 10% reduction in the police budget, or about $ 107 million, and instead adopted a police reform motion that included the implementation of body cameras and a redesign of how Canada’s largest municipal police service responds to locals. crisis.

According to the Canadian Press, a 10% reduction would have resulted in the elimination of approximately 1,000 police officers, a measure that could take years to implement due to collective agreements with the union.

The operating budget for the Toronto Police Service for 2020 is $ 1.22 billion, or approximately 9% of the city’s operating budget for $ 13.53 billion for 2020. More than $ 3 billion is being distributed for various social support and development programs, including employment, social assistance, long-term child care. -long-term care services, helping underprivileged neighborhoods, housing and shelter support.

In early June, the Vancouver Police Board rejected a city council motion calling for a 1% cut in the police’s $ 339 million budget, or about 21% of the city’s $ 1.62 billion operating budget for 2020.

Meanwhile, Edmonton city council approved a motion in early July to cut the police service budget by $ 11 million over the next two years amid weeks of debate on police reform. police.

South of the border, the city of Los Angeles voted on July 1 to downsize the police force, reducing the LAPD budget by $ 150 million. The reduction brings the department’s workforce to its lowest level in 12 years, the Los Angeles Times reported. The city said the money would ultimately be reallocated to services such as hiring programs and summer jobs for young blacks, Latinos and other marginalized communities.

THE BIGGEST LINE POINT IN THE BUDGET

In western Canadian cities, including Victoria, Vancouver, Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg, police services represent at least 20% of their 2020 operating budgets. Among them, all but Vancouver have police services as the most big city expense. (Utilities are listed as Vancouver’s largest operating expenses in its 2020 budget, although annual financial reports show the police to be the city’s biggest expense.)

In Victoria, the police force represents approximately 23% of the city’s total operating expenses for 2020. For Vancouver, Saskatoon and Regina, it is just over 20%. Edmonton and Calgary are the exceptions.

The Winnipeg Police Service receives $ 304.1 million this year, or 26.6% of the city’s $ 1.14 billion in operating expenses. This is the highest percentage among the cities surveyed by CTVNews.ca. In comparison, community services in Winnipeg receive $ 115 million, or 10% of the budget.

As in many other cities, a petition is circulating calling for change and funding for the Winnipeg police. Chief Danny Smyth said in June that it was too early to “just say dismantle the police and turn it over to social services,” but added that there was room for a conversation on this. what such a decision might look like.

Even places with modest budgets, such as Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, which has a budget of $ 59.7 million, allocates more than 16% to the police. In Fredericton, New Brunswick, more than 14% of its $ 124.4 million budget (including capital expenditures) is spent on policing. This portion is greater than 18% if capital expenditures are excluded.

In the major cities and regions of southern Ontario, Toronto, including Hamilton, Waterloo, Peel and York, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year on police services. Peel and York, which have similar operating budgets of approximately $ 2.5 billion, spend approximately $ 445.8 million and $ 384.2 million, respectively, or 17 and 16%. The Waterloo Regional Police, which also serves Kitchener, Ontario, accounts for just over 17% of the region’s operating budget. The Hamilton police budget accounts for almost 19% of the city’s net operating budget. (This portion is however halved, if it is calculated on the basis of the gross operating expenses borne by the tax and the rate).

Almost all cities that spend about 10% or less on police services have operating budgets of at least $ 1 billion. These include Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa, Quebec, Montreal and Halifax, which have a budget of just under a billion.

According to Statistics Canada data, the average salary of municipal police officers was $ 100,962 for 2017-2018, the last year for which data is available. And while police spending has increased, the number of police officers per 100,000 population has decreased, according to the data.

In the United States, data varies by source, but the percentage allocated to police services for the country’s 10 largest cities ranged from 6% to 17.4% according to an analysis by US News & World Report. Data compiled by the Center for Popular Democracy, a progressive advocacy group, which includes other cities, has shown that this percentage can reach 20 to 45%, with cities like Minneapolis accounting for more than 35% and Milwaukee for almost 48%. percent.

An important caveat to note is that cities are all structured differently and can also report finances or classify expenses differently, so a true apples-to-apples comparison is extremely difficult. Some cities include utilities in their operating expenses, for example, while many do not. Canadian police data in this analysis were collected and calculated based on the figures presented in the 2020 budget proposals and the reports published by each city and region. Where possible, comparable figures have been used. In general, the total operating budget or the expenditure budget, excluding capital expenditure as presented in the budget reports, has been used. In certain cases, for example, the figures provided may be net of recoveries and / or transfers, terms of certain types of financial transactions in accounting.

Mahima Singh infographic. With files by Graham Slaughter and Colin D’Mello from CTV News in Toronto and Danton Unger in Winnipeg

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