Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Lethbridge police looking at big budget increase

The Lethbridge Police Service (LPS) is looking at its first budget increase since 2014. Members of council, acting as the economic standing policy committee, voted on a budget which would see the LPS budget get a boost of $2.2 million in 2023, $4 million in 2024 and $4.9 million for both 2025 and 2026. Part of the extra funds are to make up for a $1 million decrease in LPS budget from the previous council. All decisions made at budget deliberations this week have to go through a council meeting later this month for final approval.  

The budget boost is focused on recruitment and retention for both officers and civilian staff. According to the city, no civilian staff have been added to the police service since 2012 and no officers have been added since 2014, besides during an initiative in 2019. Civilian employees will help with things such as human resources, records management and IT.

“Our overtime is up 90 per cent this year, so that is a significant impact on every police officer that we have. Our police officers are tired. They are burnt out,” said deputy police chief Gerald Grobmeier. He added her is concerned for officers’ mental health and the increased budget should help take strain off. “We are three months behind in our scoring of our investigations, which then impacts our ability to do analytics which then impacts the policing that we provide.”

He added the service could have aimed for more new hires, but in working on the budget request, had to be realistic with how many people they could actually hire in the four year period. “We are trying to be realistic and reasonable. We need the increase for certain but we know there is an impact on the city, on finances, obviously on taxes,” he said. 

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Councillor Belinda Crowson said she was concerned about the police commission in the past for its lack of a strategic plan and poor communication with council, but she has seen a big change over the last two years with better governance and community engagement.

“That has been instrumental in developing the relationship between council and commission and the community that they serve,” she said. “Over those last two years as they have been developing, they have looked more in depth into the needs of the community and what is actually required and you see that work being reflected in this plan.”

Councillor Nick Paladino said the extra personnel is desperately needed in the police force.

“The city has a bad reputation when it comes to crime and I heard you are turning it around. Our police force is doing the best they can with what they currently have, but they are challenged,” he said. “We have an obligation to the citizens of Lethbridge — we need to ensure that they are and will be safe no matter where they are, downtown or anywhere else.”

The committee carried the budget request unanimously to send to council for approval. 

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