It’s not what they originally asked for, but they can make it work.
That’s what London police Chief Stephan Williams had to say about the service’s new four-year budget.
“The taxpayers’ pocket is not bottomless, we recognize that, but we have some significant needs within the police service that we have to fill in order to ensure public safety and the wellness of our officers,” he said.
Changes to what was originally proposed include reducing the number of new staff from 20 employees over four years to just five officers in 2020.
Police initially proposed the hiring of five officers in 2020, two in 2021, two officers and two civilians in 2022 and five officers and four civilian employees in 2023.
Deputy Chief Stuart Betts said the additional staff were to fight burnout by bolstering their ranks.
In the original budget, London Police Services (LPS) asked for $12.4 million, but with the change to the number of new staff, police will end up saving nearly $1 million by 2023.
Cuts to grant funding from the provincial government are also having an impact on the new budget, with the department having to make up around $600,000.
Susan Toth, vice-chair of the Police Services Board, spoke out against the change.
“The community consistently asks for more police on the ground, more community police, and more visible policing, especially in areas like downtown, and that we all support greater mental health for our police officers, so if those are the two main messages, I just felt having the five officers was not enough for that,” said Toth.
“We are all trying not to pinch our pennies but we can’t say we support better policing and investing in policing and then not put the dollars behind that.”
During the meeting, LPS talked about how they will change the way officers respond to calls by investigating the root cause of issues instead of just reacting.
Det. Andrew Whitford with the Crime Analysis Unit said the Patrol Modernization Project is based on the idea of “evidence-based policing,” an approach that has only started Canada in the last 10 years.
“Our analytics will tell us what the problem is, where the problem is happening, when this is happening, who is doing it, and then we want to figure out what we do next.”
He used the example of someone who was arrested 60 times, explaining that arresting him another time won’t solve the problem. Whitford added determining why this is happening, be it mental health issues or homelessness and addressing that issue, can help them make sure it does not happen again.
The new approach will see better communication between officers on different shifts, so they so know if a call they are responding to is a new or recurring issue.
The budget was approved by the London Police Services Board Thursday afternoon and will now be reviewed by city council for final approval.
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