By Kalinowski, Tim on October 29, 2019.
City council voted unanimously during Monday’s public meeting to request the police commission explore the possibility of hiring eight new officers to help deal with the recent upsurge in crime in Lethbridge.
“It’s a concern that has been shared through various different members of the community of public safety with the recent crime influx,” stated Coun. Blaine Hyggen, who brought forth the motion to council on Monday. “I thought it was important to have more feet on the street to deal with it.”
Hyggen acknowledged it is not within city council’s power to direct the police commission to take any specific course of action, given that body must, by law, be an arm’s length organization from council and not subject to its dictates. Hyggen said that’s why he agreed to frame his motion, at the suggestion of Coun. Jeffrey Coffman, as a request for consideration instead of a directive to the police commission.
“Coun. Hyggen isn’t going out and hiring any people, and telling them to start work,” Hyggen explained. “This definitely is going to be up to the police commission to have this done, and that is why it is a request for them and not a direction for them to do that. I would hope they would come back and let us exactly know what their requirements are, and together we can work.
“Of course, because it is a pot of money we give to the police commission for them to use accordingly to what they need.”
Hyggen said his motion was motivated by hundreds of members of the public who have written into councillors in the past week demanding council take action on crime by hiring more regular constables on top the Watch and the CPOs, who are set to go operational in November. Hyggen also hoped to prevent further police officer burnout by bringing in much-needed relief help, he confirmed
“Anything for community safety, anything we can do to make the community safer, is important,” said Hyggen.
Police commission chair Peter Deys said he welcomed any and all reasonable requests from council.
“I think the commission would certainly understand the frustration that council members and the members of the Lethbridge Police Service are saying about the severity of crime and the recent incidents that have taken place,” he said.
Deys also reminded council, and members of the public, the nine new Community Peace Officers would be on the streets soon, which should free up additional regular officers to work on “the frontlines” against more serious criminal elements.
According to Deys, the cost of adding eight new constables would be an additional $1.2 million a year over what is currently budgeted by the City of Lethbridge.
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