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WRPS breaks down the cost of policing demonstrations and protests

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The staffing cost to deploy the Waterloo Regional Police Service’s public safety team was approximately $501,000 in the first six months of 2024.

That total includes coverage for public demonstrations, protests and unsanctioned events like St. Patrick’s Day and homecoming parties, as well as recent protests tied to the ongoing war in Gaza.

At a WRPS board meeting on Wednesday, police said the need for a public safety team keeps growing every year.

A report, presented to the board, said there were 51 demonstrations so far in 2024 but 14 of them required a public order response. Last year the public safety team was deployed 27 times.

“This is on pace to surpass the amount of 2023 deployments,” said Inspector Matt Halliday, who presented the report.

Before the pandemic, police said the team was usually only deployed for St. Patrick’s Day and homecoming.

In comparison, the team was only deployed three times in 2019.

St. Patrick's Day festivities on Marshall Street in Waterloo on March 16, 2024. (Hannah Schmidt/CTV Kitchener)

More officers needed

According to WRPS, they need to train more members to be on the public safety team. They currently have 61, but are hoping to have around 75 by next year.

“As the community grows and as we follow the trend of public demonstrations, you can see that it will require probably the investment of additional resource capacities,” said Chief Mark Crowell.

The officers on the public safety team would be existing officers, pulled from a variety of different departments but already with the force.

“We don't anticipate any significant budgetary ask in terms of additional resources for 2025 directly related to this,” said Crowell. “But there are legislative requirements under the Community Safety and Policing Act that have necessary equipment and provision costs that we'll be tracking moving forward and keeping an open dialogue about that.”

Crowell also noted that every police service in Ontario is facing the same public order pressures.

“Some of them are very predictable and we can cycle those into our calendar for planning and some of them are completely unexpected and they're tied to geopolitical pressures or events that certainly arise,” Crowell said.

Police believe public safety is the paramount responsibility, especially in a big crowd. The public safety team’s responsibility, according to the report, is to build a relationship with demonstrators, while facilitating peaceful and legal demonstrations and remaining impartial between opposing sides of an issue.

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