Calgary councillors look to reallocate part of police budget, focus in on mental health
CALGARY -- As worldwide policing practices go under the microscope, one Calgary city councillor wants to take steps towards change.
Evan Woolley says a new proposal he’s bringing forward Monday would focus more time and money on mental health and outreach services instead of on traditional policing.
“We need to look at how we can reallocate funds to better support the needs and safety and well-being of Calgarians,” the Ward 8 councillor said.
The notice for motion calls for five per cent of the Calgary Police Service (CPS) budget to be moved over two years.
It would amount to $10 million dollars in both 2021 and 2022.
The city’s current policing budget is more than $400 million.
“We need to remember that one in three calls for policing have nothing to do with policing,” Woolley said. “My hope is that these reallocations will also give relief to the police.”
Woolley’s plan would see a large chunk of that money put towards mental health and community outreach support.
The Downtown Outreach Addictions Program (DOAP) is an example of one organization that would receive more resources. DOAP assists vulnerable Calgarians and helps pair individuals with substance abuse issues with an appropriate social service agency.
“We have to send social workers and health professionals to do that work,” Ward 9 councillor Gian-Carlo Carra told CTV News. “The question is how can we bolster the services we have to respond quicker and more effectively, 24/7?”
Wooley will likely have support from the majority of his colleagues, including Carra, but not everyone is on board.
Ward 11’s Jeromy Farkas says the police budget is already stretched thin enough.
It currently makes up about 13 per cent of the city’s total spending.
“I’m just not sure there’s anywhere else to give without putting Calgarians in harm’s way,” he said. “Police spending has held flat and even declined despite the population growth of our city.”
The argument is scheduled to hit City Hall Monday, but a packed agenda could mean the debate is put off to Tuesday.
Either way, Carra says he’s confident the proposal is one Calgarians are in favour of.
“I would be amazed if it doesn’t pass,” he said.
Budget deliberations start later this month.