Police budget deficit triple original projection


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The Brandon Police Service is projecting a higher than expected budget deficit for 2022 and the city is on the hook for it, the police chief reported during the police board meeting on Friday.

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The Brandon Police Service is projecting a higher than expected budget deficit for 2022 and the city is on the hook for it, the police chief reported during the police board meeting on Friday.

Police Chief Wayne Balcaen told board members that a “difficult year” was the reason behind the higher-than-expected deficit of $215,173 for 2022, triple a prior deficit prediction three months ago.

“It’s never great for me to come forward and say that we have a budget deficit,” Balcaen said at the meeting in city council chambers.

Balcaen cited higher overtime costs, salaries and lack of income from fines, tickets and criminal record checks as reasons for the shortfall. But ticket revenue is expected to pick up, he told the board, with the hiring of new bylaw officers, which are expected to start work in early June.

At the Dec. 2, 2022 board meeting, Balcaen told member the budget shortfall was expected to be $71,903. Board member Coun. Shawn Berry asked where money would be coming from to cover the deficit. The reply was that, because municipalities are responsible for police services, the city would be footing the bill for the extra spending.

Also at the meeting, the BPS unveiled new details about how the $178,000 it was given for the hiring of “community safety officers” will be spent. As the Sun previously reported, these officers, to be added to the force in July, will work for BPS but are not police officers. Rather, they work to “augment policing services,” carrying out routine tasks like guarding scenes, doing safety patrols, responding to non-violent situations, and administrative tasks that often tie up police officers from being out in the community and focusing on core police work.

Building relationships between police and the community is one of the specifications of the cadet job, according to the BPS presentation to board members, and officers will focus on the downtown area. Cadets will be available seven days a week with “enhanced patrolling” on Saturdays, where two pairs of cadets would be on downtown streets, and one cadet in the office helping with remands of people taken into police custody over the weekend.

While the money from the city was for the hiring of four officers, BPS plans to hire six instead — two full time and four part time within the same budgeted money. The officers will also be branded as “Brandon Community Cadet,” and wear a Brandon Cadet badge with a “Here to Help” slogan.

These officers will drive vehicles (repurposed existing BPS vehicles) with Brandon Community Cadet branding and a bright blue and lime green colour scheme that is very distinct from Brandon police uniforms and vehicles.

The qualifications for these cadets is similar to the requirements for police officers, and a fitness test will be mandatory. BPS is looking to hire graduates from ACC’s public safety program and said the call for applicants will be issued soon as the plan is to have cadets start work in the first in July.

Much comparison was drawn to the Winnipeg Police Service’s cadet program, which allows police officers to focus on core duties and acts as a pipeline for recruiting new police officers.

“The main focus right now is to relieve the police officers of the duties that they’re doing right now that can be done by another level of service, that being the cadets,” Balcaen said in an interview with the Sun after the meeting.

“It’s not a security guard, it’s a level above that because they will have legislative authorities based on law and they will have significant training through both ourselves and the programs they graduate from — the ACC public safety course.”

Balcaen also told the board of plans to rent and renovate a downtown office space for BPS, which will not be a service centre, but a place that will allow police to have a great “downtown presence.” Balcaen said rent for the 2600-square-foot building is $550 per month and estimates the renovations would cost $25,000. He suggested these funds could be taken from the emergency services building reserve.

The chief described the rental of the building as a stop-gap measure to allow the force to have a presence downtown, as recommended by the city’s downtown wellness and safety task force. The board voted in favour of Balcaen approaching council to ask for the $25,000 from the emergency reserve for the project.

Balcaen also announced fees associated with fingerprinting during vulnerable sector checks, which are usually required for any kind of volunteer work, will be waived. Fees will still apply to criminal record checks.

The next meeting of the police board is scheduled for June 9.

» gmortfield@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @geena_mortfield

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