Ottawa must come together to co-produce an alternative response model for police, chief says
OTTAWA -- Ottawa's police chief is calling on elected officials and the community to work with the service to "co-produce" a new alternative response model for some policing calls.
Chief Peter Sloly tells CTV News Ottawa he supports the Ottawa Police Services Board's 2022 budget with a smaller than requested budget increase, and it's time for all stakeholders to coordinate a new public safety model.
"The budget will present a significant stress on (the service), but I'm still committed to get that done," said Sloly, while acknowledging the budget will place pressure on the service.
"I just need to make sure my board, my city and its council and all the city employees, and civil society is willing to come to the table and work with us, work together in order to create a more safe, healthy and well city."
On Tuesday, the Ottawa Police Services Board approved the 2022 budget with an $11.45 million increase in funding, less than the $14 million requested by the chief this fall.
Coun. Rawlson King put forward a motion to cut the budget increase by $2.65 million. The motion would require police to find $2 million in efficiencies, while $650,000 would come from reserve funds.
"We've been supporting a budget process that's gone on for a year. It's the most extensive budget process the Ottawa Police Service has ever gone through, for all the right reasons," said Sloly during an interview on CTV News at Six Friday evening.
"We support the board in its very important decision, and it's made a decision that differs from my submission. Irrespective, we will continue to support the board through to the process to Dec. 8 where the city makes its final decision, and approval or not approval of the budget. My business is to provide the business of safety to the city, and I'll continue to focus on that – supporting the board, supporting city council."
Sloly says he supports the city of Ottawa's new Community Safety Wellbeing Plan, which includes reducing the number of mental health crisis calls handled by police.
The plan, approved by council this fall, sets out strategies and outcomes to address the root causes of crime, social disorder and ill health and improve the safety and wellbeing of residents in Ottawa. There are six priorities in the Community Safety Wellbeing Plan: addressing discrimination, marginalization and racism, financial security and poverty reduction, housing, mental wellbeing, and gender-based violence and violence against women.
"But what all of that requires from a legislative standpoint and the plan that's been approved by the city, is that all sectors of the community come together – the board, the service, the city and civil society – and create a plan, co-produce a plan," said Sloly.
"Without that plan we're going to be in a lot of risk, and so that's what I'm asking. The city of Ottawa must come together and co-produce a plan, implement it faithfully and fully in order to achieve anything that looks like an effective outcome for the people of Ottawa."
The chief notes the Police Services Act requires integrated operations between police, public health, public education and the not-for-profit sector.
The 2022 budget includes $400,000 for police to "develop and implement an alternative call referral program for low-risk, low-acuity 911 calls or calls to police" for low-risk mental health and addiction concerns, according to the draft document.
Sloly says the lower than requested budget increase in 2022 will not result in any officers losing their jobs, and he will try to make sure the service balances its budget at the end of next year.
"That's the risk; we're trying something new that we've never done before, we've got stretched financial goals that we've never reached before, and we need the city to come together like it's never come before," said the chief.
"If we don't do that, there will be significant risk.But I'm committed; if the board is committed, if the city's committed, and if civil society is committed, I'm committed to working on a co-produced plan to achieve the best we can under the circumstance."
Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's "CFRA Live with Andrew Pinsent" on Saturday morning, Mayor Jim Watson said he opposes efforts to defund the police, and argued that the police service needs the funds to continue to do its job.
"In terms of the whole issue of mental health workers and social workers, that's up to the chief and the city to work on," Watson said. "But we have to give them the tools and the resources to properly patrol our streets. The number one complaint councillors tell me all the time is speeding in residential neighbourhoods … That's why we brought in speed cameras, we brought in red light cameras, but we also need a police presence to make sure that the people who are going crazy speeds through residential and school zones are ticketed and stopped and taught a lesson."
Council will finalize the Ottawa Police Service budget on Dec. 8.