• By: Mckenzie Donovan

Consultation participants don’t agree with Ottawa Police Service budget

On November 9, the Police Services Board Finance and Audit Committee met to review the proposed budget for the Ottawa Police Service. The meeting was full of bureaucratic motions typical of most city Zoom meetings. The virtual conference, however, was significant. The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) is requesting an increase of 2.86 per cent, raising their budget to $346 million. The meeting was the occasion for citizens to share their opinions on how tax dollars are spent before the Ottawa City Council votes on the budget.

The increase asked for by the OPS will go primarily towards police salaries. Chief Peter Sloly himself, who appeared in the consultations, took home $359,133 in 2020, substantially more than the city’s top elected official, Mayor Jim Watson, who earned $196,265, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose yearly salary is $185,000 (according to the Library of Parliament). The chief’s salary works out to 1/963rd of the service’s total budget for a police department with 2100 employees (civilian and police officers) and five stations around the city. Deputy Chief Steven Bell also pulled in $263,000 in 2020, while Superintendent Joan Mckenna made $290,314.

SOURCE: Sunshine List – Comparative Public Sector Salary Disclosure Data | Ontario

During the consultation portion of the meeting, not one member of the public supported the proposed budget expansion. The citizens who took part directly stated their opposition to the OPS budget, asking instead for a funding freeze, or asking for the divestment of police resources to help pay for crime prevention initiatives such as, social work, and budgeting for mental health professionals to intervene in crises in lieu of police officers.

Does the OPS really need a budget increase to cover salaries when there are currently 1461 members of the Police Service listed on the 2020 Sunshine List—the annual Government of Ontario listing of the salaries of all public officials who make more than $100,000 a year? For those OPS employees on the Sunshine List, 75.15 per cent of them are earning between $110,00 and $150,00 a year.

Concerned members of the public were given five minutes each to speak, and then board members were asked if they had any questions or comments for the speaker. Rather than addressing the concerns of the dozen citizens who participated, the members were not compelled to answer or comment. As a result, instead of at least thanking the citizens for their input, Chief Sloly, the three other uniformed officers in the conference, the committee head, Diane Deans, and other the OPS board members often remained completely silent. 

When Chief Sloly did respond to an autistic woman who has had regular encounters with law enforcement, he admitted that the system as a whole is failing neurodivergent people. He commented further that he asked for $1 million in extra funding for mental health and addiction programs from the province, but they chose to direct the funds to the city’s healthcare budget.

The budget consultation process is almost over. The Police Services Board budget adaption meeting will take place on November 22, 2021 at 4:00 p.m., and a city council-wide vote on the entire city budget on December 8, 2021.

The budget review video can be viewed below. The Public consultation starts at 2:08.18: