The 2021 Peterborough budget was passed by council on December 14th, cementing a 2.43% increase to the Peterborough Police Services budget. This increase is in direct opposition to the demands of the local Black Lives Matter chapter, BLM Nogojiwanong. Their website states that they are striving to have the city redirect 50% of the Police budget towards investing in secure, long-term housing for street-involved and unhoused communities, food sovereignty programs, public transit, public health, public libraries, and community-led anti-violence programs. Their aim in defunding the police is to redistribute resources towards programs that have suffered throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of the issues being discussed within the international sphere of media about police is that they are overburdened – more often than not, they are called to respond to non-criminal actions that would be better in the hands of specialists. On the Peterborough Currents podcast entailing the Budget highlights, Mayor Diane Therrien and Councillor Kemi Akapo both state that the majority of the calls concerned mental health, addictions, and poverty-related instances. Akapo remarked that no other organization in Peterborough exists to fill in the roles that the police undertake, and that; “We as a municipality need to do whatever we can to start reallocation of funds. For education, but also, really, to get another organization – whatever it should be – to address the mental health concerns.”
The surge of media documenting police misconduct has surged in 2020, sparking protest across the world, and some close to home.
The July 2nd rally in Confederation Park in Peterborough saw over 1000 community members banding together, an event that was organized in conjunction with BLM Nogojiwanong. The march was conducted to protest anti-Black racism, police brutality, and the many worldwide cases of active oppression and persecution of BIPOC. The event was conducted peacefully. Police were present, acting as traffic control, and later released a statement affirming their commitment to “bias-free policing. Two weeks later, they released another statement concerning the acquisition of a Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) via Ontario Power Generation, which holds a production value of around $250,000.
This was followed with multiple digital direct actions organized by BLM Nogojiwanong, calling for an email and phone zap demanding the following pledges from local politicians:
Mayor Therrien also spoke on the matter of how the city council is responding to calls of defunding; “...it's complicated. 90% of what the city provides is salaries. Those are union negotiated, arbitrated, collective agreements. You can’t just fire 50% of the people even if we wanted to.” It is not to solely point the finger at the Police for demanding more money in their already brimming accounts – being that according to the Ontario Sunshine List, the average annual salary for a City of Peterborough worker (including police) is around $119,000 (even higher for the Chief of Police).
Taking into account how Peterborough has also seen a significant rise in police presence due to COVID-19, this increase to the police budget comes at a time where the city is facing a near $20 million estimated deficit in the budget due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city council has presented to the vote a 2.43% increase, or $66,000, for the 2021 police budget. This which can be broken down into some notable expenditures, including:
The total net cost of police services for 2020 is $26,391,642; the 2021 budget anticipates this number to increase closer to the $27 Million mark. In order to understand why this number seems so high, it is important to know how the Police budget is deliberated in the first place, and the unique process that follows.
Dean Pappas, the Chair of the Finance Committee, spoke with Ayesha Barmania on the Peterborough Currents podcast about the budget, in which he includes the following detail about the decision to make the increase: “The police budget is up to the police to bring back. We recommend a cap or a guideline for their increase. And I believe that was a six to five vote at 2.18% [sic]. That, you know, there are some councillors that wanted to have a higher guideline … it’s up to the police by the Police Services Act.”
During the budget meetings within the last week of November, there have been no explicit arguments as to why this increase is crucial. Yet, there is a trend within the last two years that the budget has steadily increased by an average of just above 2% annually.
For more information on the city budget, visit the Peterborough City Budget site and search for the highlights tab.
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