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Police chief looking to have longer budget forecasts for service

It's up to the board, but Larkin thinks it would help increase transparency
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Chief Bryan Larkin at the WRPS Board Meeting January 20, 2021

The Waterloo Regional Police Service will take the usual amount of time to determine the budget for 2022, as staff round the corner on getting this year's budget passed.

The budget has been rubber stamped by Regional Council, the rollout of a 1.6 per cent year-over-year increase in property taxes will take place throughout February, then 2022 budget discussion will begin in March.

The budget for next year is not all that Chief Bryan Larkin has his sights set on, however.

With so many conversations of long-lasting, fundamental change to how police operate, Larkin wants to be sure that the financials of the service are more predictable for the public.

He said in Wednesday's board meeting that he'd like to see budget forecasts for two or three years ahead of the current budget, though it is up to the board.

Other, more fundamental changes could be coming to how policing is done via provincial legislation. Larkin explained that a new version of the Police Services Act would be rolling out next year, and many of his current obligations are related to that legislation's requirements.

While Larkin has noted his advocation to the province regarding the change of police's role, Regional Council is also looking to have some input. 

At Wednesday's council meeting, motions will be put forward that propose the province look further into tiered policing (as a possible cost-saving measure), though Larkin said there are some facets of tiered policing in WRPS already.

Another motion essentially calls on the province to give municipal councils more power over police budgets.

"That's a provincial decision that's laid out in the Act. Obviously, if I'm provided opportunities, I'll participate in that," said Larkin. "I do support our governance system. There's good dialogue, good debate between the executive of the police service, as well as the police board. Traditionally, if you look at our relationship in our community with Regional Council and lower-tier councils, I think we do business very well in our community. But, obviously, you know, people are calling on looking at doing things differently. It's all great discussion and dialogue, and ultimately the Province will decide what changes occur."

"Doing business differently" remains Larkin's goal, though he also wants the public not just to look at the police budget as just policing, since they're so integrated with systems across the region. He pointed to recent investments from different levels of government fo affordable housing and shelter care, as an example. 

"I do believe if we want to make a larger systemic change, community tables where we look at the money within the system, and how we expend it, and how we make change and we look at the social determinants of health, is the way to go. I think we can only do that looking forward collectively as a community. I understand why we talk about policing, but I think if we just talk about our budget in a silo to other budgets, we'll actually never get upstream and we'll never solve the challenges that we're facing as a community."

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