THUNDER BAY -Editorial – It may be asking too much in tough times. Chief of Police JP Lesveque is seeking a 4% hike in the police budget for 2012. There are a few areas of concern in the budget, first is the increased money needed for legal actions, a reported $129,800. Second is the budget increase for overtime the Chief is seeking an additional $200,000 in that budget.
Other departments in the City of Thunder Bay are being asked to find savings, and to attempt to come in without increases in their budgets.
With the police budget there are a few points that should be considered. First right now there are three officers sitting at home, under suspension but with pay. That represents a cost to taxpayers of over $300,000 in salaries. It also likely represents a part of the increased costs in overtime and in legal costs for the department.
One might wonder why the new Chief of Police wouldn’t bring those three officers back into work, putting them on desk duty and thereby freeing up other officers and likely reducing overtime? The currently suspended officers are facing Police Act charges. Once those charges are resolved, it is unlikely any of the currently suspended officers will lose their jobs. They will likely be admonished, and then return to duty.
Putting those officers back to work riding desks, and moving toward speeding up their cases would be a solid move forward for both the TBPS and for Thunder Bay taxpayers. Simply put, about one per cent of the total 2010 Police Budget is represented by the costs of leaving those suspended officers at home.
One way to demonstrate that the Executive of the Thunder Bay Police Service is equally serious about their budget is to examine the case of those suspended officers and the apparent policy of leaving those officers at home. Perhaps in cases where issues like this come up, a policy could be implemented that included time away from work, followed by a return to desk duty. It would likely save money, and also serve both the Service and the officers better.
The work that Thunder Bay’s front line police officers accomplish is massive. No one is suggesting that within the budget items should be cut that impede their safety or their ability to do their jobs. However finding needed savings in the current budget should be possible.
The Police Services Board has approved the current budget proposal, it now moves to City Council to be included in the 2012 Budget deliberations. Council has an opportunity here, with our new Chief of Police to help guide him in setting direction on what taxpayers and residents need. One certainly hopes that will happen.
Chief Content Officer