Saskatoon budget: Council approves $119 million operating budget for city police next year

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City council has approved the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) budget for the next two years.

Last week, administration proposed the SPS receive $119.7 million next year and $124.6 million in 2023 for their operating budget..

On Monday, the first day of budget deliberations, the recommended allocated funding was approved unanimously.

The spending represents the largest portion of the city’s proposed operating expenses, at approximately 21 per cent. Saskatoon Police Chief Troy Cooper said the money would be spent on addressing the increase of emergency calls.

With the money, eight new police positions are set to added in 2022 and four new jobs in 2023. Cooper said policing is changing to include more mental health support.

“We’re reimagining what should happens when you call 911, and only sending police when police are required,” Cooper told city councillors in the virtual meeting.

Cooper said police are working closely with the Mobile Crisis Service. He said the SPS is working on having calls directly dispatched to Mobile Crisis, rather than having officers dispatched and then calling Mobile Crisis crews once officers arrive to the scene.

“We see ourselves as one part of a continuum of public safety service providers,” Cooper said, referencing the Okihtcitawak Patrol Group.

Ward 1 Coun. Darren Hill said he was originally prepared to move a lower number for the police expenditures.

“However, after the presentation and reviewing the materials … I am comfortable supporting this,” Hill said in the meeting.

Hill moved the police spending recommendation which was seconded by Ward 9 Coun. Bev Dubois.

City councillors still have to give final approval to the city budget once deliberations are complete.

Councillors and the Mayor are set to continue deliberating the budget on Tuesday.