Since the 2021 Municipal Election, the concerns I have heard most are about crime, security and safety and safety on transit and downtown. Followed closely by conversations about the budget for the Edmonton Police Service.
The next City Council discussion about future funding of the Edmonton Police Service has been delayed until August, and I would like your feedback prior to that meeting.
This is not the first time that police funding has been debated at City Council, and the conversation usually expands to include the performance of EPS. How safe is Edmonton? What tools would help make it safer? Should the EPS budget increase? Should we make significant investments in new equipment, vehicles, and other tools?
City Council’s budgeting process has become somewhat more sophisticated over the last 10 years or so. We moved to multi-year operating and capital budgets were born. Project management was consolidated into one department.
And in 2013, Council talked about putting EPS “on a diet.” Council created the EPS funding formula, which simply stated that the police budget would automatically increase year over year by a percentage equal to inflation plus population growth minus an “efficiency factor.”
The funding formula allowed EPS and City Administration to develop long term plans, and served to eliminate annual funding squabbles. It was clear to all that Council expected EPS to work within the bounds of the formula.
All of that changed in 2020, with the death of George Floyd and the rise of the Defund the Police movements. Police services across Canada and the United States saw their budgets cut in response.
Edmonton was no different. In 2021, Council motion to reduce the prescribed EPS budget increase by $5.5M in both 2022 and 2023. In 2022, Council prescribed a further reduction of $10M reduction in 2023.
Council then increased the EPS budget to address reduced photo radar revenue, and increased it again for 2023 and 2024 to cover the operation costs of the Healthy Streets Operation Centre in downtown.
It was exactly this unpredictable yo-yo approach to police funding that the funding formula was intended to eliminate. Whether you support these budget changes or you don’t, whether you view them as budget cuts or reductions in increases - one thing can clearly be stated. There is nothing predictable or reliable to Councils’ approach to police funding over the last few years.
It is interesting to note that many of those cities that reduced police funding in the wake of George Floyd’s death in May 2020 have since restored that funding, and then some. As one example, the budget of the Minneapolis Police Force in July of 2022 was approximately $3M higher than it was in 2020. And a quick Google search shows this city continues to have divisive debates about the appropriate level of police funding.
It turns out we had the right answer all along. Predictable, stable, long-term funding that allows the EPS to make long term plans, that lays out clear expectations of performance, and takes the emotion out of the debate.
Ahead of the conversation in August, I am requesting your feedback. Your feedback can be shared by completing the following survey. The survey will be open until August 14th. My goal is to get a generalized understanding about how you feel about matters related to the Edmonton Police Service, to inform my work at City Council. Your feedback is greatly appreciated ahead of the important conversation at Council.
Please Note: This survey is now closed. Thank you to all who provided their feedback on this matter.
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