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Police warn service cuts may be coming to balance budget
There’s a grim assessment of the impact provincial funding cuts could have on local policing.
London police Deputy Chief Daryl Longworth spoke with CTV news after Thursday’s police board meeting.
The board was told that the amount London receives in provincial funding grants was reduced by $638,000, and access to a pair of new grants is unlikely to make up the difference.
Longworth says London has one of the most efficient police services in Canada. “Every single thing we are doing right now is critical to public safety and wellbeing in the community,” he says.
During the meeting, Mayor Ed Holder suggested police first explore spending cuts in their own budget before turning to city hall for more tax dollars. “Maybe there are some things we don't need to do. Sometimes there is that absolutely have to list, and then there's the seriously would like to want to list.”
Longworth says the results of past belt tightening are already showing. “Our customer service I would say has dropped drastically over recent years because of funding cuts, because of lack of resources.”
Previous city councils have pressed London police to reconsider some of the services they provide, but eventually balk at politically unpopular cuts to programs like police in schools and foot patrols.
At the meeting, Longworth pointed out some services are serious, but not necessarily criminal issues. Yet the public still expects a police response.
"Complex societal issues in the community like poverty, suicide, mental health, like substance abuse, are all things people would say are not legitimate policing needs, but we are the only ones out there,” he says.
Longworth adds police top brass are willing to take another hard look at their budget, but the public may have to further lower its expectations when they call police.
“Now to look at further drastic cuts, there are going to be serious implications, hard decisions will have to be made, but we will have to do the best we can and maybe disappoint the public with regards to customer service.”
At the police board meeting, it was decided to contact the Ontario Association of Police Services Boards.
Deputy Mayor Jesse Helmer hopes the organization can coordinate with cities to reverse the cuts to provincial policing grants. “We need to galvanize the whole province to talk about this issue.”