Speaking Municipally dissects debate on police funding and community safety

Speaking Municipally dissects debate on police funding and community safety

· The Pulse

The latest episode of Taproot's civic affairs podcast takes a look at various discussions on community safety and police funding that emerged from committee meetings and will resurface at council.

In Episode 179 of Speaking Municipally, co-hosts Troy Pavlek and Mack Male dove into the nitty-gritty of three related items:

  • The recommended actions arising from the Community Safety and Well-Being Strategy, which is slated to go before the full council this week after the community and public services committee did not decide on how to spend $8.4 million that has yet to be allocated from the amount withheld from the Edmonton Police Service budget increase last year;
  • Police presence downtown and Mayor Amarjeet Sohi's motion to allocate $5 million in provincial dollars for downtown safety and vibrancy toward an immediate response to concerns about disorder, which will come before council at a later date;
  • The fate of the police funding formula, which Ward Anirniq's Coun. Erin Rutherford moved to replace with base funding of $385 million, with other revenue on top of that and the opportunity to put forth service packages for more — council will consider this after executive committee voted 3-2 in favour of her motion.

Male and Pavlek took particular issue with comments from the Edmonton Police Commission's chair, John McDougall, asserting that council was overstepping its bounds regarding the police budget. The Police Act is clear, said Male: "Council decides how much money goes to the police. And the commission decides how they spend it." Requiring the police commission to come forward with service packages for additional funding, as other departments do, could add transparency to the process, he added.

Pavlek wasn't as sure this would lead to more transparency, as there is no mechanism to ensure police spend their budget the way they say they will. But getting rid of a funding formula that guarantees budget increases every year does seem to be warranted, he said.

"Edmonton is the only city in Alberta that has a police funding formula ... and from our experience, I can probably say that seems to be with good reason," he said. "Doesn't seem like it works great."

Hear much more about these issues and the way councillors handled them in the May 20 episode.