The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) will have $10.9 million less in its budget next year following a city council vote Wednesday.
Council voted eight to five to cut the EPS budget, with councillors Tim Cartmell, Sarah Hamilton, Karen Principe, Andrew Knack and Jennifer Rice voting against.
“We’re perpetuating a system that is so broken,” Ward papastew Coun. Michael Janz told council.
Janz introduced a motion Wednesday to reduce the police budget by $11.9 million on an ongoing basis.
He noted that more than 30 per cent of calls to police deal with addictions, mental health and trauma — issues that he said should be handled by social agencies.
“We’re paying way too much for the wrong services, at the wrong time, at the wrong place,” Janz said.
Ward Anirniq Coun. Erin Rutherford proposed amending Janz’s motion to keep $1 million in the ongoing budget, so the force can pay staff to take off the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.
The proposed amendment was approved, resulting in the $10.9-million cut.
Janz and Rutherford both indicated that money should go toward addressing homelessness, community development toward community safety, as well as social services prevention and response programs.
Edmonton police will receive about $384.8 million from the city in 2022.
Rutherford said she heard from both sides while campaigning ahead of the municipal election in October.
“In my ward, it was split,” Rutherford said during Wednesday’s budget meeting. Some of her constituents call on the city to reallocate funds from the police, and others call for more police funding.
“While we don’t know the answers, we also cannot just keep writing a blank cheque.”
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, who voted in favour of the reduction, noted that other city departments have taken a 1.5 per cent clawback over the past three years, while police have not.
A lower budget will impact the level of service police can provide, said Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee.
“There’s not much to manoeuvre anymore, so any changes from what was approved are going to have some service implications,” McFee said in a year-end interview earlier this week.
“We’ve got a lot of communities wanting more presence — matter of fact, way more than we’ve heard [say they] don’t want a presence.”
Eighty per cent of the police budget goes toward paying members and staff, he said.
The reduction comes more than a year after the previous council redirected $11 million from the police budget, over two years, for community safety and well-being initiatives.
That decision followed days of public hearings into policing at city hall. Over 100 people signed up to speak, many of whom called for the city to defund the police service.
Cartmell proposal not voted on
Also Wednesday, Ward pihêsiwin Coun. Tim Cartmell proposed keeping the police budget the same for next year, in order to give the police time to make up a $6.2-million deficit.
He also proposed a motion that would take $11.9 million out of the police budget on an ongoing basis after 2022.
But with Rutherford’s motion having passed, council didn’t have a chance to vote on the one put forward by Cartmell.
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