Advanced technology will be replacing some of the work normally done by police officers, if Halton Regional Council approves the $144-million budget submitted by the Halton Police Services Board.
Purchasing and installing automated licence plate recognition hardware, which automatically scans license plates and alerts officers to vehicles with expired plates or vehicles that are stolen, accounts for $400,000 of that total.
Nevertheless, Police Chief Stephen Tanner is seeking to add 17 new people to staff – 13 uniform officers and four civilians in his request, which represents a 3.7-per cent increase over the previous year.
The hirings would represent one per cent of the 3.7-per cent increase.
The new officers include six Criminal Investigations Bureau detective constables (two for each district), four district frontline patrol officers, one district elementary school liaison officer, and two constables for the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team.
Adding staff is raising serious questions in the minds of many taxpayers, who point out that as of 2015 Halton had the lowest overall crime severity index when compared to the communities of the other “Big 12” police services in Ontario.
They include Durham, Hamilton, York, Toronto, Waterloo, Peel, Sudbury, Ottawa, London, Windsor and Niagara.
A total of $107,000 also is earmarked for buying and installing fitness equipment in the new police headquarters in Oakville. And Tanner wants money to replace 29 patrol vehicles and 33 non-patrol vehicles.
Rick Craven, councillor for Ward 1 in Burlington, represents the city on the police services board. However, he declined to comment on the budget, citing new rules which restricts opinions on the budget from the board to its chair Oakville Mayor Rob Burton.
The Bay Observer left a phone message for the mayor, but it was not returned by press time.
Elsewhere, other jurisdictions are cracking the whip on what they view as excessive spending by police services. Metro Toronto Police escaped budget cuts this year, but its Chief Mark Saunders has been told he must start to get costs in line.
This, in spite of the fact, Toronto has recorded a 37.5-per cent increase in homocides so far in 2016.
One councillor in Toronto, Michael Thompson, had asked for the police budget to be slashed by as much as $24 million.
More civilian use in court services, parking enforcements and paid duty has been recommended.
Meanwhile, in England newly appointed Prime Minister Theresa May has said every police force in the country must make spending cuts for the next four years. She has warned that fewer people and fewer buildings are on the horizon for police forces in that country.
Over the past five years, British police budgets already have been cut by 18 per cent and the country’s police force reduced by 17,000 officers.
May said police gradually are learning to do more with less.
Written by: Denis Gibbons