Ottawa Police to Spend More Crime Prevention Resources in 2022, Chief Says

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On Monday, members of the Ottawa Police Services Board rejected calls for police funding, prompting a discussion with a community delegate about the role of police in public safety.

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The discussion took place during a delegation from Sam Hersh, a board member of the progressive grassroots organization Horizon Ottawa, who has appeared at several policing board meetings over the past year.

After speaking to the Board of Directors at Monday’s OPSB meeting and again asking its members to fund the Ottawa Police Service and shift the force’s funding to different social services, the members council asked Hersh probing questions about his vision for community safety.

“The people I represent are appalled, upset and upset when I tell them that the police in the south of the city have this large area to watch and they just have to wait sometimes,” said Carol Anne Meehan, council member of the city. ‘administration. “Help me understand how I can send a message that we want to fund or cut the budget for the police when we can’t even meet the services we need right now.” Help me do it.

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Hersh said he believed people only called the police because they had no one else to call. “Let’s take this money that the police keep asking for in an increase and transfer it to a mobile crisis unit, which we can do right now,” he said.

Board member Daljit Nirman said community members he spoke to, including religious leaders, were concerned about the lack of law enforcement in some areas.

“He said ‘listen to the community’,” Nirman said of Hersh’s comments, addressing the president. “But I just want to remind him that as a board we have to listen to all delegations.”

The interaction between Hersh and several board members came after the board heard public delegations weighing in before the board confirmed the 2022 budget direction for the OPS. Under the budget direction provided by the board, the OPS will need to write next year’s budget using its 2021 budget as a basis. Any additional cost must be justified by force and a detailed explanation provided.

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A number of delegations, which included representatives from Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, the Ottawa Jewish community and the Salvation Army, expressed support for the police and a desire that the force’s budget be removed. not restricted.

There were times during the meeting when the board and the leader found common ground with other delegates who called for a budget freeze.

Delegate Andrea Poncia, Coalition Coordinator at Somerset West Community Health Center, drew on recent local research to call for a freeze on the OPS budget next year.

“Police are routinely dispatched at great expense to deal with situations for which they are not the best prepared or the best trained,” she said. “It can and often does lead to less positive results and it happens despite the fact that there are a lot of people in Ottawa who are qualified and trained to deal with exactly these kinds of crises that are not as well funded.”

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Poncia suggested that these services could benefit from additional funding that would allow them to respond to some of these crises.

Sloly said the force would be a willing partner to expand these services and integrate them into a community safety model – but added it would take a few years.

“Let’s do this,” he said. “Let’s do this together. Let’s take the necessary time, with the urgency behind it, to move as much as possible from the police to the social service sector. That will include the transfer of resources, but just to say that at the end of this year’s fiscal budget, that entire transfer can happen seamlessly in a city the size and complexity of the nation’s capital here in Ottawa. is simply not feasible in a safe manner. “

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Also at the meeting, Chief Sloly said the board was drafting its final policy on vaccinations for its members and consulting with officer organizations before doing so.

“We are seeking input from our members as well as the two collective bargaining units and we are seeking the advice of Ottawa Public Health and other provincial bodies in developing this policy, but we do not have our final policy,” he said. he declared. .

The City of Ottawa has a mandatory vaccination policy in place for employees, but the chief said he did not think the bylaw applied to the police service.

“I suspect not,” the chief said, but added he would seek clarification.

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