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Peterborough Police Board Chair Mary ten Doeschate and Bob Hall respond to questions about the Service’s 2023 budget report during a City Finance Committee meeting on Jan. 10, 2023. Photo credit: Clifford Skarstedt, Peterborough Examiner.

Police Services Budget Presentation Passed with Amendments Calling for Further Consultation

Written by
Sebastian Johnston-Lindsay
and
and
January 12, 2023
Police Services Budget Presentation Passed with Amendments Calling for Further Consultation
Peterborough Police Board Chair Mary ten Doeschate and Bob Hall respond to questions about the Service’s 2023 budget report during a City Finance Committee meeting on Jan. 10, 2023. Photo credit: Clifford Skarstedt, Peterborough Examiner.

During a meeting of the Finance Committee on January 10th which saw eleven presentations by community groups, services, organisations, and Associations - the Police Services Board presentation stood out as the only one which was accepted following an amendment. Mayor Jeff Leal moved the request for the Board to report back to Council after further considering the implications of the 2023 Budget proposal on future fiscal years after a lengthy discussion on the Services staffing plans.

When asked for comment, Mayor Leal stated that he felt it was important that the new Chief of Police be given the chance to provide input on the budget and that council hear back once he has had this opportunity. 

Notably, the introduction of the budget presentation also marked the first full day on the job of Chief of Police, Stuart Betts, who was sworn in just a little more than 24 hours beforehand.

“I appreciate that it’s a big budget number, especially against the backdrop of community safety needs and a tight budget,” Leal later told reporters in the Council Chamber.

Mary ten Doeschate, Chair of the Peterborough Police Services Board and Board Member and former City Councillor, Bob Hall, presented Peterborough City Council’s Finance Committee with a presentation that outlined the difficulties facing the Peterborough Police Service. Among some of the major issues addressed during were the Calls for service that rose 30% while violent crime has increased by 18.5% in the past decade.

The Service is requesting a 4% increase over its 2022 operating budget in order to maintain existing service levels. This brings the total net operating budget for the service to a total of $29,102,937.    

A portion of this increase is a recognition that staffing levels have not kept up with these increases and as a result, the service is planning on hiring eleven new positions over the course of 2023 including five sworn officers and six civilian support personnel. Most of these positions will be filled as of September 2023, with the plan being to hire only two of the officers by July first. 

Among the civilian positions are two 911 Communicators, Evidence Clerk, Digital Evidence Management Clerk, Affiant, Police Report Entry Clerk, and a Wellness Coordinator.

When the opportunity for questions arose, Mayor Leal asked whether or not the Wellness Coordinator will be expected to help officers who are off work with issues related to PTSD, to which Chief Betts assured him that they will be expected to help officers get well. 

“We need to get them well so that they can get out in our community and serve it well,” Betts went on to state. 

As nearly 90% of the service’s gross operating budget is represented by the compensation of personnel, Councillor Keith Riel inquired about the efforts being taken to ensure that those staff members who are off on leave are being paid 100% of their regular salaries while on leave. He further expressed concern for the following years when these new hires for 2023 will need to be paid for a full year.

Riel noted the “luxury” that the Police Service has in being able to “walk across the street and ask the city to back-fill employee salaries.”  

Police Services Board member, Bob Hall responded that every effort is taken to ensure that those injured on the job or otherwise unable to work return back to work within six months. He also noted the fact that while on leave, 15% of an officer’s pay comes directly from the Board while 85% is drawn from City funding.

“The City is our major Funder,” Hall said. “No one would be stupid enough to insult their major funder.” 

Currently, the Peterborough police have thirteen officers off on disability while an additional four are working but not on the street. 

Councillor Lesley Parnell then asked a question about the rash of car hopping incidents and petty thefts which Councillors hear about often from their constituents. Specifically, she sought clarification on why these issues are difficult to deal with from a policing point of view. 

In response, Hall explained all crime prevention and investigation is about triage, with the most serious offences being dealt with first and that this is impacted by the notable staffing issues that the Service is dealing with.

“There’s a criminality piece, but there’s also a societal piece,” Hall went on to explain, adding that there are some “societal and systemic issues for which police enforcement isn’t going to be a solution.”

At the conclusion of the presentation and question period, Mayor Leal introduced the amendment to the motion concerning the Police Services Budget presentation. The amendment requested in part that the Board review their 2023 budget request with a mind to the implications on budgets for 2024 and 2025. 

The amendment further sought the scheduling of a special meeting of Council to be convened on January 16th to consider approving this recommendation and that a special meeting of the Finance Committee be scheduled to review further information from the Police Services Board on January 23, 2023. This motion was adopted unanimously by council. 

The amendment as passed is couched in language of which suggests concern for future years. However, Leal’s comments to the press belie what could be the true motivations behind this request for the Board to reconsider its request, and which might not have all that much to do with the relative tenure of the City’s new Chief of Police. 

If there is a deeper purpose behind this amendment, residents will have to wait and see. Mayor Leal wasn’t saying much beyond his coy insistence that he truly wanted to hear what Chief Betts had to add to the conversation. What he expects that to be, no one but him can be sure. 

“January 23rd is the big day,” he said as we walked away.

On January 11th, the Police Service Board met and the 2023 budget proposal was not discussed. 

Mary ten Doeschate will serve again as Chair of the Board for 2023 while Bob Hall will be wrapping up his term in the coming months. 

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