Lacombe joins push for police funding reform
The City of Lacombe is joining AUMA's push for more equitable policing funding. The municipality is currently responsible for 100 per cent of funding, with some assistance from the Municpal Police Assistance Grant Funding Program, however, communities under 5,000 people don't pay for policing at all. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)
The City of Lacombe is voicing its support for changes to Alberta’s police funding model.
The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) recently launched an advocacy campaign to advance a review of the current policing funding model, which they say is inequitable in how it distributes policing costs.
At present, police costs are only covered by urban municipalities with populations greater than 5,000 people and those like Lacombe who have their own police forces.
Small communities, as well as counties and municipal districts are exempt from paying for policing, which is something AUMA, and council, too, would like to see change to an “everyone should pay” concept.
“I think it’s a little bit unfair that citizens of urban municipalities in Alberta essentially have to pay twice for policing and those in rural areas don’t,” said Coun. Jonathan Jacobson, who’s also a former chair of the Lacombe Police Commission. “I fully endorse administration’s direction in this matter.”
The Lacombe Police Service, according to acting Chief Administrative Officer Matthew Goudy, also gave a verbal endorsement of support for changes to be made.
City council voted unanimously in favour of administration’s direction to draft a letter to Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr to push the review ahead.
According to AUMA, municipalities have been waiting for a new policing model since 2010. In 2016, AUMA members asked AUMA to advocate for a new funding model, and in March 2017 Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley committed verbally to begin reviewing funding models in the fall.
While options for more equitable have been researched by the Ministry of Justice, AUMA says it’s likely consultations for police funding won’t take place until after the 2019 provincial election.
Inequitable police funding isn’t the only point of frustration, though. The province provides support to offset policing costs through a Municipal Police Assistance Grant Program (MPAG), however the program hasn’t kept pace with rising populations and the increase in crime rates.
Municipal policing expenditures increased from 23.3 per cent from 2008-2016, however MPAG only increased 15.8 per cent in that time.
Communities with populations between 5,001 and 16,666 receive $200,000 base payment plus an additional $8 per capita. The City of Lacombe receives approximately $320,000 in grant funding for the Lacombe Police Service, which is the third oldest municipal force in the province, established in the early 1900’s.
Cities and urban service areas with a population between 16,667 to 50,000 people, meanwhile, receive $100,000 base payment and $14 per capita. Communities with a population over 50,000 receive $16 per capita.
With an “everyone should pay” concept, AUMA proposes a funding formula based on population and property assessment, with any surplus funds to go towards crime prevention and response. Under that model, they estimate approximately $30-$35 million in police funding would be cost-shared among all municipalities.
Earlier this month at their regular meeting, the Town of Blackfalds endorsed the initiative. The Town of Stettler agreed to draft a letter on Feb. 6 and the Town of Sylvan Lake also requested the provincial government look into more equalized distribution of policing costs on Feb. 12.