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Staff cuts coming to Winnipeg Police Service due to budget shortfall: chief
WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Police Service is dealing with a major crime wave. It says crime rates are up in almost every category, but it may have fewer officers available to deal with it – if a budget proposal goes ahead.
On Tuesday, Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth met with the police board at city hall to introduce “police and staff complement cuts,” as well as service reductions.
Smyth said he was told by the city administration to keep growth of the police budget at two per cent. He says this is going to be a “challenge” because “the same administration negotiated a five-year contract that included 2.5 per cent increases” and he therefore has a significant shortfall.
Smyth said nearly three dozen police officers, as well as cadets, would be on the chopping block.
"A reduction of 34 complement positions on the police side, and a reduction of half our cadet corps, which is 25 positions,” Smyth said. “For the record, I don't support these cuts at all."
These cut backs would be completed by 2022 in order to limit the spending increase to two per cent.
If the WPS does achieve these targets -- Smyth said the cuts would put a strain on police resources, which are already strained by current demands for service.
Maurice Sabourin, president of the Winnipeg Police Association, said he believes these budget proposals are pressure, related to the city’s current plan to alter the police officer pension plan.
"The city is trying to save money off the backs of our members, on benefits that have been negotiated for the past 30 years,” said Maurice Sabourin, president of the Winnipeg Police Association.
Smyth said police have already reduced overtime by $2.1 million and reduced the number of officers by 100 over the past decade.
"The targets don't jive with the environment we're dealing with right now,” Smyth said.
Smyth said it would only take a 2.5 per cent increase – a half a per cent more than the current proposal – to keep staff at current levels.
Police Board Chair Kevin Klein said it shouldn't be hard for a city like Winnipeg to find that money.
"Two million dollars that could be allocated from different funds within the city budget – I think is fairly easy,” Klein said. “I think we could probably find 30 million dollars if we did our budget properly."
Klein said the board will look at what's best for public safety and then it will bring its recommendation forward on Dec. 2. Klein said his priority for the budget process is to ensure police have a budget that will allow them to do the job the police board feels is necessary.
Smyth said the service will also have to defer capital expenditures and look for other savings as well, such as a reduction in legal costs.
-with files from CTV’s Kayla Rosen