More about the Police Budget

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This is what Councillor Joni Baechler had to say in her response to the email which I sent to members of City Council yesterday. And my comments here are a reflection of the email which I sent right back.

This issue is one of great contention and I would like to provide some clarification.

The police have increased their staff by 54 officers since 1999 and their budget has increased by 10 million in the same time frame. They have not instituted downtown police patrols despite a commitment to the previous Council.

They have asked for a an increase of 7% or $51,000,000. The increase includes $850,000 for 30 new officers. We did not say to the police you must not hire 30 new officers. They can most definitely hire new officers. If they do so, they will have to be prudent with the $ remaining. Bottom line – it can be done and the beats can be covered.

I appreciate the issue of the patrol office that you have raised.”

With respect to the added officers and budget since 1999, that fact does not by itself represent any kind of validation for denying them more. What I know is what I see, or more appropriately, what I don’t see. And that’s sufficient enforcement with respect to things like speeding, red light running, etc.

Based on information provided to me by the Police Chief, my Jan 10, 2001 letter to Board Of Control reflected the fact that “London’s force is comprised of 131 officers per capita, compared to the national average of 206.”

In his letter to me dated 2002/03/14, Tony McGowan wrote that “We have been challenged with trying to keep up to the demands of the community in a number of ways. Attrition has had a significant impact on this organization. The demographics which reflect much of the changes in other sectors has had an impact upon us.”

According to recent Free Press articles, the Chief and the Police Services Board believe that at least 85 officers should be added within the next 3 years.

If a committment was made to the previous Council for more downtown foot patrols, but never followed through on, then what did Council do (or not do) about that? Is there any accountability? If there are those on Council who believe that there’s a need for more civilian oversight of London Police Services, then they should say so.

There is virtually no visible police presence downtown during the times that I monitor.

What is visible, is an escalation in illegal behaviour. It is now commonplace for me to see drivers running red lights. How much longer before we mirror Toronto’s experience, where pedestrian deaths are the norm?

Based upon my own experiences, police response is not slow, it is non-existent. Try calling the non-emergency number and see how long it takes to get a response. It used to be that there was a delay of many days in responding to your voice message. Most recently when I’ve called, the phone simply rang and rang.

According to Deputy Chief McGowan, “The impact of legislative mandates and court decisions has had a tremendous effect on our ability to meet the demands of these impositions given current resources. It is for this reason that the very concern you address is now being studied.”

What are the mandates and court decisions? How much is that financial impact? And if I’m smart enough to want to know the answers to these kinds of questions, shouldn’t our members of City Council?

What about other increased costs beyond the control of Police Services? Certainly, existing on ODSP without even a cost-of-living increase to reflect inflation, I am keenly cognizant that prices are not static. For instance, how much has fuel increased over the past 4 years? How much of this new budget increase will go for fuel instead of new officers?

I only know as much as people tell me, and in my experience the police are very selective about what information they provide. They won’t win any awards for transparency from me. But at least they have been somewhat forthcoming. There has been nothing but silence from local politicians. In fact, in the +4 years that I have been speaking out about police enforcement, I believe that Councillor Baechler’s Feb 11 email is the first response that I’ve received from a local politician on this issue.

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