Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Police Budgets and Driving Slowly

(Here is a bit of a rewrite of a story published three years ago.  It appeared as a Bob’s Blog piece i
Lately there has been a lot in the media about police budgets. Unlike most people’s, police budgets keep getting bigger.

In December 2014, criminologist Michael Kempa wrote about the issue in a piece in the Toronto Star (

He cited “leapfrogging” contracts and the ever-increasing complexity of social problems that police deal with as two reasons for the increases.

Kempa thinks we need to get police services back to their “core functions.”

This is, of course, not a new idea. Long-time police critic and former Toronto mayor John Sewell reiterated his long-held view that “police should go back to the fundamentals.”

“Get out of the car instead of using the drive-through lane,” he told the London Free Press (

This week in Toronto (February 15-21, 2016) there is a budget battle in the works with some Councillors determined to make some change to the police budget.  Good luck to them.  We’ll need courageous municipal politicians to step to the plate, draw a line in the budget sand and force police services to explore these or any new ideas.    

I was once such a courageous municipal politician. That’s my story anyway.

Simple, Definitely not
and a Slow Driver
There was a day when, through a procedural quirk, I, a simple Ward Councillor, was poised to freeze the police budget. This was when I was Regional Councillor and had for a year ascended to the lofty heights of budget committee member. There were only four on the committee and one member was absent that day. Following my persuasive presentation I believed I had convinced a second member to vote for a freeze to the police budget. We would win the day with a 2-1 majority. Long story short: I had, of course, overrated my procedural and oratorical prowess and the police got their money as they always do. I don’t remember any members of the public or media present that day. All the senior police brass were there though.

I drove like an undertaker for some time after my 15 minutes of oppositional fame. To this day, I bet there is no one who does the textbook-perfect lane changes that I do. 


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