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Groups team up to try and prevent police budget increase

Collaborating with Reallocate Waterloo Region, Ground Up WR is calling on Regional Council to use the increase budget put forward by WRPS to community use instead of funding the police
Regional Council
Phi Doan/KitchenerToday

The police budget will be a hot topic, as the public gets another chance to speak to Waterloo regional council Wednesday night.

Among the voices will be two local groups, who have teamed up to try and convince council not to approve the Waterloo Regional Police Service budget increase, which is proposed to be 6.71 per cent - or $12.4 million.

This would put the police budget up to around $198-million.

ReallocateWR and GroundUpWR is asking residents to sign an email campaign ahead of the meeting, requesting the budget increase be reduced to zero per cent, and the proposed increase instead go to a community-led homelessness and housing affordability strategy.

That would include immediately developing or procuring housing stock and shelter space.

They also want council to "fulfill its commitment of $250,000 to facilitate community conversations and subsequent action plans for a police-free community care model," and commit to putting a million dollars toward funding mental health and neurodevelopmental resources and services for IBPOC, 2SLGBTQIA, persons living with disabilities and other communities impacted by the trauma of police violence. 

The police services board argues they need the increase and the 35 new hires because of a jump in call volume and demand.

Police Chief Bryan Larkin told the board last week the region has grown significantly and "I would not be asking for an investment in resources if I did not believe they were required."

Most police board members agreed the status quo is not an option moving forward.

It was also noted the service has the third lowest ratio of staffing in the country, with 187 staff members per 100,000 residents.

Among upper tiered municipalities, Waterloo police sit at the median level.

Council will discuss the budget in a public session at 2 p.m., before holding the input session at 6:30 p.m.