By Tim Kalinowski on February 26, 2021.
The Lethbridge Police Service will draw on funds set aside for training, to fill vacancies and for body cams to absorb a $1 million budget cut in 2021 and 2022, says Lethbridge Chief of Police Shahin Mehdizadeh, and will continue to provide the services citizens have come to expect to fight crime in the community.
Mehdizadeh spoke to The Herald just prior to the Police Commission meeting on Wednesday following his appearance at city council on Tuesday.
“These are the funds we knew we had,” he explained. “They were funds for projects that haven’t been spent, or projects that haven’t come to fruition, at this point. Given the million dollar cut to our budget, we felt very strongly we need to maintain operational presence in delivering the service the community is used to, and deserves, versus trying to look at some of those areas.”
Mehdizadeh said the training savings come as a result of COVID-19.
“COVID has had an impact on the level of training we can deliver,” he stated. “So we don’t spend the money on training right now, but eventually we do have to spend that money. And maybe we might have to spend more money because a lot of the training has to be put on hold, we can’t send our people, and we have to make up for it later on. But at this point we are not spending the money; so that can certainly go to supporting operations and delivering the service to the community.”
Body cams are similarly out of consideration for the next two years at least, he said, and by not filling certain vacancies, or leaving vacancies open longer, Mehdizadeh felt there was enough savings to be had to weather the next two years of budget cuts. It is also reassuring to his people, he said, they will not have to lay off employees due to budget constraints.
“For now, I think, we are in a good place where we feel comfortable and we can continue to deliver the services,” Mehdizadeh stated. “There is a little bit of reassurance to our team members, officers and civilians, not to worry about that for now, and continue doing the work that they do.”
Mehdizadeh stressed, however, the next two years will be challenging, and there may be unforeseen expenses that arrive. He also told council on Tuesday that he did not know if he would be able to continue to draw funds from inside the current budget of the LPS to absorb an ongoing cut beyond 2021 and 2022.
“Even over the next two years there are so many variable factors that can really have an impact as well,” he explained.
“Such as the number of employees that are off work on WCB claims, the vacancies we have. Our success at recruiting new people â€¦ The majority of our budget, 93 per cent, is in salaries.”
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