Draft 2016 police budget, which includes funds for 25 new officers, still needs city council approval

The 25 new officers Ottawa police are hoping for won’t be focusing on traffic enforcement, but the force’s chief says the influx of sworn members will help alleviate staffing pressures caused by a rise in shootings, medical accommodations and more.

The Ottawa Police Services Board passed the force’s 2016 draft budget on Monday night, which includes funding for 25 new police officers who will focus on guns, gangs and violence against women, as well as reduce staffing pressures caused by officers with medical accommodations.

But one city councillor raised concerns at the meeting that traffic enforcement has been left dangerously understaffed.

Ottawa Councillor Riley Brockington

Coun. Riley Brockington says speeding is the No. 1 problem in River Ward. (CBC Ottawa)

“The number one safety issue in my ward is the speed of traffic,” River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington told the board Monday.

“I think we have a lack of service; I think that people generally recognize that in the past we’ve had a greater presence enforcing these traffic related issues,” he said in an interview after the meeting.

“The [police] chief has admitted he’s had to pull officers away for other pressing issues, and people have noticed.”

There has also been a decline in traffic ticket revenue, Brockington said, which is adding pressure to the 2015 city deficit. And communities like his are breaking under the weight of increasing traffic from ballooning suburbs, he said.

New officers will ‘stabilize’ force, chief says

Ottawa police have had to temporarily move officers around internally to meet special demands.

Most recently, 12 officers have been shifted out of the three districts (central, east and west) and the drug unit to the 10-person guns and gangs unit, in order to deal with a rash of targeted shootings.

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau says the new officers the force is hoping for won’t be focus on on traffic enforcement, but will help allow other officers to do so by alleviating staffing pressures. (CBC)

Some of the officers had been conducting traffic enforcement before being temporarily moved.

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau said the 25 new officers the force is requesting — the police budget still needs city council approval — will have to focus their efforts on guns and gangs, as well as offset pressures of officers with medical accommodations who can’t perform certain types of enforcement.

But while the new officers won’t be focusing on traffic, Bordeleau said the influx of officers will help stabilize the force overall, allowing previously re-deployed officers to focus on their original tasks, such as traffic enforcement.

“For the first year of the plan the 25 officers will be targeting to those three areas, but you have my assurance that traffic enforcement, traffic safety, will continue to be a top priority,” Bordeleau told Brockington during the meeting.

“With the addition of the 25 officers, we hope to help stabilize the workforce and allow people … to do the important work that they need to do, including our traffic officers.”

Medical accommodations

Another pressure on staffing the force is an increase in the number of officers who need special medical accommodations that prevent them from doing front-line police work, Bordeleau said.

Currently, 47 Ottawa police officers have medical accommodations, according to the force. The addition of 25 officers to the ranks will help alleviate those pressures, Bordeleau said.

The 2016 city budget proposes a 1.75-per-cent increase in the police tax rate.

The budget documents compare staffing based on population per police member, assessed by Statistics Canada, which shows Ottawa ranked 11 out of 13 of Canada’s “larger urban centres” in 2014.

Since 2009, when the force stopped hiring beyond attrition, the service has gone from 466 persons per officer to 504 persons per officer in 2014, according to the data.

The force’s long-term plan is a request for 25 new officers each year until 2018.

The draft police budget goes before city council on Dec. 9.

Source: CBC News