The city’s elected officials are slated to make a decision on the Greater Sudbury Police Service’s proposed 2024/25 budgets on Dec. 12.
These budgets include hiring 26 more staff members, and require increases of 8.09 per cent in 2024 and 6.2 per cent in 2025.
Already unanimously approved by the police board on Nov. 1, Greater Sudbury city council will have limited say on the budgets’ contents, but can vote yea or nay on the new totals (a respective $78.59 million and $83.5 million in 2024 and 2025).
In the event both sides disagree and stick to their guns, the budget will be sent to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission for a final decision.
Police Chief Paul Pedersen presented the proposed budgets to city council members on Nov. 15, at which time the questions and comments from city council members appeared supportive.
“You do well with everything you have to cover,” Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre told Pedersen, adding that people don’t realize how complex police work is, how costly it is and how much emotional strain it puts on officers.
“We have to help them be prepared and healthy, and it’s costly.”
The 26-member increase in staff is the key sticking point to the proposed budgets, which would bump the force’s current authorized strength from its current 283 sworn members to 303, plus civilian staff.
New staff include the following in 2024:
- 10 constables (discussed during last year’s budget talks)
- One equity diversity inclusion strategist
- One communications infrastructure technology programmer
- One digital evidence processor
- One internal communications strategist
New staff in 2025 would include the following:
- Four constables (discussed during last year’s budget talks)
- Six constables, including three specializing in drugs and three in sexual assaults
- Two forensic specialists
The jump in staff follows the 2023 budget in which Greater Sudbury Police Service’s sworn membership grew by an additional 10 members as part of that year’s 5.66 per cent increase.
In a presentation earlier this year, Greater Sudbury Police Service offered a rundown of comparators, including how many police municipalities have per 100,000 population. Greater Sudbury ranked No. 4 among 13 municipal comparators in Ontario, falling behind Toronto, Kingston and Niagara.
However, the police per 100,000 figure is recorded as 153 for Greater Sudbury, when using the population and sworn member count included in the report it should have been 159.
This ranking brings GSPS to No. 2 among the 13 municipalities ranked, behind Toronto’s 165.
A GSPS spokesperson clarified to Sudbury.com that the discrepancy is due to police using a point-in-time count of sworn police officers in 2022 instead of their authorized strength.
The rankings were from 2022, after which GSPS sworn membership grew to its current 283, which brings their new police per 100,000 population total to 165.
With 303 sworn members proposed by the end of 2025, Greater Sudbury would bump to 176.7 police per 100,000 population (all using the 2022 population count, with future population counts expected to alter these numbers).
Although GSPS would likely remain among the most heavily policed municipalities in the province, it wouldn’t necessarily top the list, with other police jurisdictions also growing in ranks.
By the end of 2023, Toronto Police Service’s ranks were projected to grow from the previous year’s 4,988 to 5,127, bringing them up to 169 police per 100,000 population.
The number of police officers in Greater Sudbury, Ontario and Canada have all grown substantially in the past several years.
Nationally, the number of sworn members grew by 20.8 per cent between 2002 and 2022. During this timeframe, the number of police officers grew by 15.86 per cent provincially and 13.28 per cent in Greater Sudbury.
If a new sworn membership total of 303 were to be in place by the end of 2025, as proposed, the 20-year period from 2005 would find the number of police officers in Greater Sudbury jump by 25.7 per cent.
Additional context Pedersen has afforded the GSPS budget request in past meetings is the fact GSPS serves the largest area among municipal police forces in Ontario, at 4,187 square kilometres.
Violent crime has been on the rise locally (the latest violent crime severity index is the highest on record), and mental health calls for service have increased by 47 per cent from 2021 to 2022, to 2,782 calls in 2022 (with similar numbers recorded so far this year).
“As much as it would be nice to get out of that business, at least the way the legislation is written right now we can’t,” Pedersen told city council last month of mental health calls, noting that police are the only ones with the legislative authority to deal with potentially violent situations, and the only ones able to apprehend people under the Mental Health Act.
Pedersen has also cited the growing complexity of police work as keeping police away from front-line service, which has necessitated additional police.
The Dec. 12 finance and administration committee meeting of city council will begin at 6 p.m., and can be viewed in-person at Tom Davies Square or livestreamed by clicking here. The meeting will also see Public Health Sudbury and Districts present their proposed budget.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.