Adding eight additional police officers to the Red Deer RCMP detachment will be discussed during the city’s 2018 operating budget deliberations.
Funding for eight more officers – a doubling of the four additional officers previously proposed – was achieved through “good news” the city received about growth revenues.
City manager Craig Curtis said $1.5 million had accrued in the growth fund at the end of 2017, rather than the projected $1 million.
This is due to several big box stores and apartment buildings opening towards the end of last year, expanding commercial revenues.
This indicates council will be discussing a 2018 budget of $361.5 million, which will necessitate a tax increase of no more than two per cent.
Curtis noted at least half of this increase will cover the needed funding contributions for the capital budget, as well as carbon tax levies.
As well as discussing the eight proposed additional police officers, council will talk about adding three civilian staff to the Red Deer RCMP detachment, which would be one more than previously proposed.
Mayor Tara Veer has stated that public safety will be a priority in this budget. These additions would bring the total number of local police officers to 168 and civilian staff to 96.5.
Coun. Buck Buchanan asked Curtis, ”How do we ensure that what we are presenting is what we are getting, I mean, boots on the street?”
Curtis responded that there could be a “memorandum of understanding” reached with the police inspector as to where the new officers are deployed. “My hope is that it would be in the downtown, which is where the public perception and the reality of where (most) crime” aligns.
Regarding the additional civilian staffers requested, Buchanan, a retired police officer, questioned whether an additional three are needed, since many more civilians were added to the RCMP in recent years — a 72 per cent increase from a decade ago.
Curtis said it warrants further discussion. A comparison with Lethbridge indicates that the southern Alberta community has more police officers, per capita, than Red Deer, but fewer civilian employees.
Coun. Vesna Higham suggested highlighting in the budget items the city is having to cover, when they are actually the responsibility of other levels of government. The $400,000 requested over two years for the clean-up of needle debris as well as the clean-up 50 to 70 “rough sleeper camps” in city parks are both provincial responsibilities, falling within the areas of health and housing, said Higham.
Curtis said a council resolution from October, requesting the province help out with these kinds of costs, has received no response so far.