Fresh Takes

The rising costs of policing is in the news yet again

News of substantial salary increases and retroactive pay for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) raises concerns about fiscal sustainability. Some communities that pay the RCMP for policing services are worried about the stress these unexpected substantial costs will place on their finances. The city of Airdrie, Alberta, for example, equates the impact to a 5% tax increase. According to Federation of Canadian Municipalities President Joanne Vanderheyden, municipalities are going to be faced with incredibly difficult choices between making cuts to their essential services or passing the increased costs along to local residents.

The costs of policing have ballooned in recent years alongside growing public scrutiny of the roles and responsibilities of police officers and the changing context in which they work. While police officers and the RCMP are invaluable to the maintenance of societal order, studies show that an increasing proportion of officers’ time is spent on non-core police duties—namely administration.

It’s time to reconsider how police officers spend their time, and whether or not there are better ways to manage public funds. Supplementing the police force with licensed security professionals for non-core tasks, like administration, can ease budgetary pressures and reduce costs for taxpayers, while increasing overall police efficiency and actually reducing crime. As a non-negligible bonus, it may also increase job satisfaction for police, who are able to focus on the work they really trained for.

By offloading administrative tasks to security professionals, the province of Alberta could save an estimated $162 million to $216 million a year. In addition, security personnel can offer support in some less technical areas, such as traffic management, which can lead to additional savings of $9 million annually in Alberta.

This isn’t a new idea—police forces in the UK, for instance, have adopted models that incorporate security personnel, with positive results such as decreased crime rates and substantial public savings. As fiscal pressures continue to mount in municipalities across Canada even before this announcement of significant increases to RCMP salaries, acknowledging and utilizing the resources and support available through highly trained and qualified security personnel is a must.

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