May 28th, 2024

Budget battle awaits new chief

By Lethbridge Herald on October 29, 2020.

Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh is settling into his new role and is working towards budget discussions with city council next month. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
Lethbridge Police Service Chief of Police Shahin Mehdizadeh is settling into his new role and is preparing for crucial budget discussions with city council in November.
City council has asked the force to look at potentially a five- to 10-per-cent budget cut to its core funding this year, and will be discussing whether or not to continue The Watch program at a cost of $500,000 per year.
Mehdizadeh said the calculation for budget cuts is a simple one with serious potential consequences to community safety.
“Here is the reality of police work,” Mehdizadeh explained. “Our budget is mostly consumed in our salaries and people. I can’t save much money if I told our officers to walk versus drive more, and we can shut down some more lights in this building. Those costs are not something I have much influence over. Any reduction in police budget translates into fewer officers on the streets. Then we have to make a decision on what programs we can’t deliver anymore to the public based on those cuts. Those are a lot of the discussions we are having. We have given our plans to the City, and we will be going toward the end of November to have those discussions and presentations.”
Mehdizadeh currently has 172 gun-carrying officers and 65 civilian support staff in his department. All are necessary, he stated, to maintain a high level of service for the citizens of Lethbridge.
“The number of our civilian staff compared to other police forces of the same size, we don’t have enough,” he explained. “We are actually behind. But the 65 staff we have here are to provide support to 172 police officers. I look at our civilians as a platform we need to have strong for our police officers to be working on. To take civilian positions out of the equation is actually not the answer. If I were to take civilian positions out, I would actually have to get gun-carrying people to perform functions that they can have other people perform at a much lower cost. So that is not really good business.”
Mehdizadeh said a budget cut to the department might mean he has to make a choice between maintaining a core policing capability and sacrificing other important programs which make a difference to the longer-term crime-reduction strategy in the community.
“We will continue to provide adequate policing to the citizens here (no matter what),” he said, “don’t get me wrong. But again, we can only do so much based on the capacity we have here.”
As for The Watch, Mehdizadeh said he believes the program has clearly proven its worth.
“We found that 88 per cent of the citizens in Lethbridge are actually very supportive of The Watch program,” he explained, referring to the annual Lethbridge Police Service Performance Evaluation submitted to the police commission back in June. “A lot of the people on The Watch are the volunteers. They are the youth in the community who are actually building leadership skills by serving the community in that capacity. They are learning about the lifestyle and what causes drug issues.”
Mehdizadeh said there were two statistics he would reference for community members who have criticized the effectiveness, or questioned the value of, The Watch: The fact Watch volunteers have prevented 32 overdoses this year while working in the downtown, and the fact they have saved regular LPS officers from having to respond to an estimated 2,000 calls-for-service through their efforts.
“Anyone who tells me there is no value with The Watch, how can you say that when they have saved 32 lives? So there is value,” stated Mehdizadeh. “In addition when we look at from a business perspective, what The Watch has been doing is with volunteers — yes, there are some paid employees because they have to have paid employees to look after the volunteers out there to have that support and accountability piece in place — but the majority of them are volunteers who have actually reduced calls-for-service coming into us by being on the frontline and actually dealing with issues.”
Mehdizadeh said, in fact, all three direct funded council programs, The Watch, the Community Peace Officers and the PACT Team, have all proven their worth.
“Those initiatives have come to life to take some of those calls we don’t need have gun-carrying police officers attend to, and deal with some of those issues — they actually get ahead of that — which really provides us an opportunity where those units are reducing calls-for-service for gun-carrying police officers so they can focus on other priorities and the core-policing mandate,” he said.
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

Share this story:

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Come on Chief. You come from the RCMP, an organization notorious amongst it members for doing more with less for decades. Lethbridge isn’t your cash cow, put your expertise to work. Taking 5 off the budget is right up your alley.

Dennis Bremner

Funny, we can’t seem to find the money for 172 police officers to keep 100,000 in the community safe, but found the money to employ 177 people keeping 130 Addicts “Safe” and were making the community and residents unsafe, at the now Notorious and Closed “Drug Clubhouse”, called ARCHES!

Last edited 3 years ago by Dennis Bremner

What is the police budget, Dennis? Upward of $35 million, all in? Keep shovelling it.

Dennis Bremner
Another prediction over with. Now it will be interesting to see how Spearman tries to deny and suggest this is just another fake site coming up with these statistics. A special thanks goes out to Shannon Phillips and the NDP, Spearman and his foolish Council of naive’ members who”were Savin Lives”, Bourque and Manning of ARCHES for their hard work to make us number One, and of course MSTH and all those that trucked addicts into Lethbridge to make us take over this prestigious position! To show you our illustrious mayor and council are on top of things, now the City is asking the Chief of Police to reduce policing to save money. What a swell group of intellects we have!!


Here is the problem . . . on weekends and after 5pm we often only have 8-10 police on duty patrolling a city of 100,000 already? You call police and often you wait for an hour or more.
Are the citizens going to have to police their neighbourhoods now?
2 years ago I stood before Council and ask them to consider the police budget increase to battle increased crime and organized crime elements, and the downtown core began to see results. But in the last couple of months, when you call police to deal with criminal acts, you may just here, “sorry we are dealing with life threatening issues at this time so it will be sometime before officers will be able to respond” . . . so we just got a wake up call in the recent release showing Lethbridge in 1st place among all Canadian communities, for crime! How is that possible . . . what are we going wrong . . . ?
Maybe it is time we realized that not putting the ones committing the crimes in jail, is just not working. The outcry that too may FN are being incacerated gave them special treatment, and they took advantage of that!
If you are doing the crimes, no matter what race or religion, you do the time!
And when you have blown $30 million in 2 years on a SCS, the fire/EMS and police budget increases to react to the increase in services and all the extra housing and social services to compensate for the impacts of the site, for about 150 addicts and continue to blow thousands of dollars per night when the illegal tent operated by some of the renegade ex-SCS staff and fail to shut the illegal tent down and stop the money being burned up . . . then maybe there is a serious leadership problem in this city!
Also, when civilians witness illegal drug use in this illegal tent and police fail to charge or in some cases investigate by entering the tent . . . there is a clear problem with policing!
There is a loss of confidence in this police force! Too many times they have failed the community! LPS has some serious leadership issues and it appears they have bound hands of the police in charging illegal drug users in this tent or even entering it. But that is not all, then they say, “we do not see any drug use in this tent” . . . no confidence in this police force!
Lethbridge has serious leadership issues and the people of this city are tire of being rape and pillaged and having our parks destroyed by 130 deviants!
It is time we saw some leaderhip in this city, but unfortunately that will not happen for a year, when we will see new faces on Council and the Police Commission.
This city has been abuse too long, due to leadership sticking their heads in the sand!
After been in cities where RCMP are city police, I do not have much faith in our new Chief after seeing how is dealing with the illegal tent.
This tent is not needed in this city! Even under Health Canada guidelines it says there must be an “URGENT” need . . . the number of overdoses have dropped dramatically in October after the SCS closed it party palace!
LPS needs to prove itself!


If the leadership of this city had the intestinal fortitude to do what the taxpayers pay them to do, then people wouldn’t have to protest and protect their neighbourhoods!
I hope you have found a new job Fescue! You are fired!


Cute. I haven’t worked for a couple of decades. Gives me time to research, so I don’t have to make up my own facts like bte.

From my perspective the leadership if Lethridge is doing exactly what the taxpayer wants: fostering a caring community.