Monday, May 27, 2024

Ottawa police request ‘more reflective’ funding model from federal government for policing the capital

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The Ottawa Police Service expects the federal government to cover the $15.4 million cost to police large demonstrations and events in Ottawa in 2023, including presidential visits and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian protests.

Now, police have requested a “more reflective” multi-year funding model from the federal government to police events and demonstrations in Ottawa and “better reflect the demands on the OPS due to Ottawa being the nation’s capital.”

A new report for the Ottawa Police Services Board shows several major events and demonstrations in Ottawa last year created a $15.4 million budget pressure for the police service.  Staff say significant events and demonstrations included the visits by U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the ‘Freedom Convoy 2.0’ events and the 1 Million March 4 Children Protest.

“The OPS planned and responded to numerous large events and demonstrations in 2023, including one-day and multi-day events. These events occurred consistently and steadily throughout the course of the year,” staff said in the report for Monday’s board meeting.

“In 2023, as in previous years, the OPS continued taking a more robust approach to the planning and deployment of police.”

The report shows events and demonstrations cost $15.4 million, but does not provide a breakdown of the costs associated with each event.

“The ongoing efforts to implement a robust approach to the planning and deployment of police for these activities incurs significant costs,” the report says. “Surge capacity costs of assisting partner police services, alongside overtime and non-compensation costs throughout the duration of the events are the primary cost drivers.”

The report, submitted by Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs, says “efforts remain ongoing to build out” a permanent Special Events Team that will plan and manage events and demonstrations.

The report does say the federal government is expected to reimburse Ottawa police for the $15.4 million incurred for policing large demonstrations.

“These costs, that have been incurred in 2023, qualify for reimbursement as per the terms of the Nation’s Capital Extraordinary Policing Costs Program,” the report says. “This includes a reimbursement for direct expenses and encompasses a component for overhead administrative costs that are associated to these demonstrations.”

Ottawa police rely on partner agency police resources during larger scale events, according to the report.

“Without utilization of these additional resources, this work is managed by off-duty members on overtime and contributes to the deterioration of member wellness and organizational resiliency,” police said in the report.

“The OPS has requested a more reflective, multi-year funding model from Public Safety Canada that will better reflect the demands on the OPS due to Ottawa being the Nation’s capital. Discussions about this continue.”

According to the 2024 budget, Ottawa police receive $3 million in federal funding for policing costs.

The financial status report for the Ottawa Police Services Board shows the service ended 2023 with a $6.8 million surplus. Staff say $24.8 million in budget pressures, including $15.4 million to police events and demonstrations, was offset by $31 million in savings and funding from the federal government.

Police spent $6.45 million on overtime last year, with staff saying, “members continue to work a significant amount of overtime to meet the needs to the organization, most notably ensuring that minimum staffing levels on the frontline are met.”

Staff say the service found $7 million in savings due to a hiring freeze, but staff warn hiring plans this year will limit flexibility to find savings in the future.

“Offsetting these pressures were savings found in salary and wages from a significant number of vacancies due to the recruitment freeze in 2021 that resulted in the OPS starting 2022 under complement when historically the OPS starts the year over complement to account for retirements that occur in the first quarter of the year,” the report says. “Once all vacant positions are filled, the OPS will have limited flexibility in future budgets to absorb pressures.”

Monday’s Ottawa Police Services Board meeting will be held virtually, beginning at 4 p.m.

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