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Police chief pitches budget proposal amid calls for change

Waterloo Region's top cop was part of a one-hour presentation going over the needs of the police force, doubling down on the need for a 6.7 per cent budget increase for 2022
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Erin Anderson/KitchenerToday

As pressure mounts from community groups to reduce --- or eliminate --- the proposed increase to the Waterloo Regional Police budget for next year, the region's top cop is doubling down on the need for more officers and resources.

Bryan Larkin was part of a one-hour presentation to regional council Monday to discuss the police budget for 2022.

As has been well documented, the police board is looking for a 6.7 per cent increase, or just north of $12-million.

Larkin argued the money is needed to combat the rise in crime, particularly violent crime.

He noted there have been 16 shootings in the region this year, 11 in Kitchener. The most recent was on Linden Avenue over the weekend.

"Policing is dynamic, it's fluid, it's unpredictable," Larkin told councillors Monday.

Councillors were receptive to the points made, and felt sympathetic to what is being asked.

But if there was one thing that was clear in all of it, is councillors also felt policing needs to be done differently.

"I think we have to come up with better solutions," said councillor Sue Foxton. "I'm not going to talk about money or allocations, because I don't know what has to be spent where, I don't have that expertise."

"But I think working with the groups, I think we can come up with a better solution, for the sake of our communities, and for the sake of our police officers."

Councillor Tom Galloway said after the presentation, the sense he got from Larkin is that the system isn't working well and some people feel they're not being well serviced.

Councillor Sean Strickland made note of the pressures being faced from groups, particularly ReallocateWR.

"We've resisted those calls to significantly reduce the police services budget over the past year and previous years. We believe in you and believe the direction in which you're taking the force," he said.

"But we still receive that kind of pressure, and now that pressure is intensified because of the ask for an increase of spending of $12.3 million."

He asked Larkin if the ask of 35 new hires could be spread along two years instead of one.

Larkin replied those officers are needed now, mentioning the difficulty in the ask due to the time it takes to train and deploy officers.

Nothing is set in stone at the moment.

There is another public input session on December 8, ahead of a full budget approval set for December 15.

If council and police ultimately do not agree on the budget in the end, it would be up to a provincial tribunal.

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