by MP Holmes
“Show up and tune in” was the message from the Poverty Reduction Forum, when asked how people can engage with 2024 police budget consultations. The Forum, which was hosted by the Kitchener Public Library and presented by the Waterloo Region Community Legal Services, was held on October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
The Forum consisted of two four person panels that included outreach workers; people with lived experience of poverty; academics; a former politician; and social workers.
Some of the conversation at the Forum revolved around the problems and challenges when dealing with the police. Consistently, across the panels, delegates encouraged all members of the public to get involved in the community consultation process, in particular to attend the upcoming public consultations on the police budget on October 26 and November 6.
Earlier this year, the Waterloo Regional Council approved a motion that demanded the WRPS board consult with council and the public before approving its annual budget, in an effort to encourage transparency and improve relations between the police and the public. Up until now, Regional Council could only approve or reject the police budget and had no control over individual budget items or the process.
As reported by CKMS news last week, Regional Councillor Rob Deutschmann presented a motion to council to express dissatisfaction and disappointment in the engagement process so far and that the WRPS budget seems to have been finalized with neither public nor council input. That motion ultimately failed, though the vote was close.
At the Poverty Forum, advocates Kamil Ahmed, a community organizer and mediator at Community Justice Initiatives, and Sara Escobar, co-founder of Peregrine Outreach, both stressed the importance of public participation. Kamil also discussed the importance of gaining a wider perspective and understanding of the police’s increased budget requests.
The WRPS is the 12th largest police service in Canada and the 7th in Ontario. In 2023 the police budget was $214 million. Despite a surplus, the WRPS has asked their 2024 budget to be increased by $16 million, in large part to fund additional 18 new officers in 2024 and 2025. The reason, according to police, is because officer staffing in the region has fallen short of other major municipalities, noting that as the population has grown in size, staffing has not increased.
To bolster their request, the police pointed to the rise in crime from 2012 to 2021 has risen 34 percent.
The Police budget public consultations begin with a virtual meeting on Thursday, October 26 at 1 pm. You can join this consultation by watching on Waterloo Regional Police Service Board’s YouTube channel.
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