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Waterloo regional police present $228 million budget ask to council


Waterloo regional police are asking for a $14 million budget increase in 2024 to pay for 18 more officers.

But one regional councillor questions if the service will be able to hire the additional recruits even if the budget ask is granted.

Chief Mark Crowell presented the service’s proposed budget to council Wednesday.

The total budget ask stands at $228 million, up 6.7% from last year.

Aside from the new sworn officers, Crowell said increasing inflation, contractual and benefit increases and investments in technology are the driving factor behind the increase.

Staffing and overtime costs are major challenges, he said.

“The vast majority of those overtime allowances are for frontline resources everyday,” Crowell said. “I can tell you that virtually every hour of every day we have unmet overtime needs to serve minimal staffing requirements across the Region of Waterloo.”

Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) is projected to spend $7 million on overtime this year alone, as rising crime rates and public events add to the financial strain, Crowell said.

“This is not how we want to do business,” Crowell said, adding aside from financial inefficiency, the reliance on overtime is bad for members’ mental health.

Coun. Rob Deutschmann said while the desire to hire new officers is evident, it’s not matched by the ability to actually bring them on board.

Last year WRPS faced questions when a staffing report surfaced after their annual budget had already been approved, recommending the service could pay for additional officers using past surpluses.

On Wednesday, Deutschmann said despite having funding for 833 officers, WRPS’ actual complement as of Q3 2023 is 810, estimated to drop to 808 by the end of the year. If funding for 18 more officers is added, it will leave them with 43 spots to fill, he said.

“We’re going to start the year with [a] 43 officer deficit,” Deutschmann said. “So my question to you chief, is why can’t we just focus on hiring what the current deficit is for a year – given it’s a difficult tax year – and not add the additional 18? Because all that’s doing is adding to the surplus with police services and it’s causing us to have to look at other services or the [tax] levy to finance that.”

Crowell said the service has “had great success onboarding new officers,” averaging 48.6 new hires per year.

“We understand that there are lags,” he said. “That if anyone for any reason through retirement, resignation does depart our police service then there is automatically a staff gapping. So we’ve built into the this years’ budget, as we have in the past, a $2 million salary gapping provision to account for that to allow us to bring down the budget to a place that we feel is responsible.”

Crowell also agreed to bring forward a report on the police surplus at Deutschmann’s request.

No decisions on the police budget were made on Wednesday. The regional budget, including finding for police, is expected to be finalized by mid-December.

CTV News asked WRPS to confirm their current actual complement of officers but did not immediately receive a response. Top Stories

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