Policing has increased in cost 7% annually over the past two decades in Maple Ridge. We need to determine what factors are driving this increase and to look at justifiable strategies to reduce their costs. To do this the Mayor and Council of Maple Ridge must be more effective as advocates for reducing the costs of policing with both the provincial and federal governments via our MLAs and MPs as well as through organizations such as the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) and Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). For example technology, mental health issues, pension increases, and evidence disclosure seem to be among the biggest cost concerns now and for the foreseeable future. We need to effectively deal with these or they will continue to drive costs up.
One of the areas of cost control is the civilianization of sworn positions (replacement of sworn officers with civilian staff). This is now occurring in areas such as forensics; however, also needs to be looked at for other positions in the organization where reasonable. Public safety, however, must be foremost and we must furnish adequate policing to meet our growing population and its needs. The greatest costs related to policing (wages and benefits) are out of municipal control given that the Federal Treasury Board sets those levels. Realistically, personnel cuts are not in anyone’s interests. In B.C. we average 10% lower police staffing levels per capita resulting in higher case loads for officers compared to other provinces in Canada. This is not sustainable for the long-term as it leads to burn out, increased stress-related leaves, as well as less attention to case files.
With respect to the mental health, homelessness, and addiction problems, we must convince our partners in senior government to provide the necessary support as per their responsibility and mandate. We need consistent, measured, and effective resources, provided to our community, by the federal and provincial governments to help us to reduce and eliminate these problems. To accept less is simply not acceptable and fails our community today and in the future.