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WRPS draft budget calls for increases to meet staffing demands, regional challenges

Regional police have laid out five draft budget 'scenarios' based on levels of staffing expansion
File photo by Erin Anderson

Regional police have provided a first glimpse at their Draft 2022 Operating and Capital Budget. 

Presented to Waterloo Regional Police Service's Board on Wednesday, that draft budget includes five different options for consideration and discussion, as Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin called on the board to consider the "strong need" for further staffing. 

According to the draft budget report, a 2018 Staffing and Workload Demand Review of the police service identified a need for 147 additional 'full time equivalent' (FTE) staff members based on several factors - including the demands faced by WRPS, regional population growth, call capacity and more. Since that review, the service has managed to hire 47 FTE positions, leaving a deficit of 100 positions as of January 1, 2022. Hiring of those 100 positions would increase the service's budget in 2022 just over 15 per cent over 2021's approved budget. 

"Simply, we've not kept pace with the demand of our service, the demand of our community and the growth of our community - both commercial, industrial as well as residential. We have a growing community, and our staffing levels particularly on the uniformed side have not kept up pace ... and so the demands everyday are creating some challenges." said Chief Larkin.

Of the five operating budget scenarios presented to the board, four propose an expansion of FTE positions for WRPS - ranging from 25 positions to 55. The final scenario offering zero expansion, referred to as 'status quo' by Chief Larkin, would still see a budget increase for Waterloo Regional Police of upward of $13.3M - marking a nearly 6 per cent year-over-year increase compared to the 2021 operating budget of $185.3M.

Larkin said the lowest impact scenario that still includes service expansion, adding 25 FTE positions, would be a "significant advancement". 

"Our leadership team believes that our board has a significant vision for the future of policing; a significant commitment to transformation ..." said Larkin. "In all the scenarios, we still remain very committed to achieving the goals set out by the board - that's what drives us."

Expanding on what the region could see if the service does not commit to "some form of long term strategy to grow and meet demands", Larkin said there'd likely be a reduction in FTEs and response to certain calls and certain investigative units. Maintaining that the service has "done so many different processes to become lean", he added that he's not sure "where else the community will accept some service cuts."

"We would pause all promotions, transfers and career development - which impacts the healthy morale and workplace of our organization. We'd be looking at cost recovery options from municipalities, and I think the board knows and I'm very much a believer that there's only one ratepayer - regardless of where they live, we all contribute..." said Larkin. 

With regards to the service's draft capital budget, Regional Police have requested nearly $44M in 2022 - including a 2021 budget carry forward of just over $6M. According to the service, facility related expenditures will account for nearly 70 per cent of that request - specifically allocated for 'capital renewal' and new additions or renovations related to the Central Division building on Fredrick Street in Kitchener. Another significant swath is accounted for by 'Information Technology Projects'.

The initial draft is set to undergo further review with the Police Services Board on November 17 and on December 15, with a tentative presentation to Regional Council set for November 29, with final approval coming on December 15.

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