Concerns raised over proposed cuts to Halifax police force
Published Tuesday, January 29, 2013 7:21PM AST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 29, 2013 7:22PM AST
Some city councillors and residents are expressing their concern over a proposal to cut 28 police officers in Halifax, a city that is no stranger to violent crime.
Budget talks are underway and there are hints the number of police officers in Halifax could be cut within weeks in an attempt to hold the line on the city’s $70-million annual police budget.
There are 518 police positions in Halifax, but that includes 10 vacancies.
Mayor Mike Savage and Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais say nothing has been decided yet.
“The question should be does the city need to reduce the number of police officers? I think that’s a question we have to look at,” says Blais.
“We’re in the process of going through our budgets right now and that involves right now looking at all possibilities out there.”
“Public safety is a priority for me,” says Savage. “So is balancing the budget.”
While neither Savage nor Blais would confirm whether they plan on cutting police positions, Coun. Gloria McCluskey made her feelings about the proposal clear.
“I don’t think we have enough police officers with everything that’s taking place around here, with all the guns and the knives,” she says.
Statistics show that Halifax had the second highest number of murders per capita in the country last month, making some residents are leery of possible cuts to the police force.
“I want to feel safe in my own city,” says one area resident, who is opposed to the proposed cuts.
Although Blais says the budget and its implications are weeks away, he says there are jobs being done by police officers that could be done by others, such as gas-and-dash investigations.
“We spend upwards of 4,500 hours a year dealing with these types of investigations,” says Blais.
His new budget will first go to the Board of Police Commissioners, and then to city council.
McCluskey says council has a limit on what it can cut from a police budget and that council can’t dictate cuts to the police force.
Staff Sgt. Mark Hartlent, who heads the Halifax Regional Police Association, says the union hasn’t been consulted. He also doesn’t believe the cuts will be made.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Rick Grant