Crime stats and closed-door conflicts



In my last post, I referred to the surprisingly low 2014 police budget increase as a head-scratcher, and to be sure, it remains quite surprising.

But the most recent stats, unveiled at Thursday's police services board meeting, make that seem a bit less surprising.

Calls for service are down by 6.6 per cent, almost all crimes are down and, for the clincher, there's still a massive chunk of the overtime budget left unspent, a rare treat indeed at Halloween.

The savings might make it easier for the police board to meet the promised target without the “staffing changes” promised by Mayor David Henderson.

Or they may make it possible for those changes to take the form of shuffling rather than exits.

One grows anxious to find out.

A reporter may like to see tension where it does not exist, but my spider sense began lighting up a week ago today, right after the city released its budget.

The police increase is the lowest in recent history, and the mayor was quite specific in his words: “There are staffing changes included in this budget.”

Said he.

But police board chairman King Yee Jr., to whom the mayor is referring all other questions on the matter, was far more equivocal.

“Those efficiencies are still in progress in terms of negotiation,” said Yee. “Reductions are being looked at.”

Does one smell a closed-door conflict between the mayor, pushing for substantive reductions in the police's ranks, versus other board members resisting the idea?

Hard to tell. But then, if calls for service continue to go down, it will be easier to avoid deep cuts by finding operational savings elsewhere: overtime, for instance.

That will provide a breather in any in-camera conflict. But the peace won't likely last.

If the calls and crime numbers go down beyond a certain point, and stay down, the question of staffing reductions will come up as a matter of course – perhaps right before the OPP costing comes in next September.

Next year should bring us one interesting election.