Waterloo regional police presented their 2021 budget request to council on Tuesday.

The proposal includes an increase in funds, despite citizen groups requesting the additional money be allocated elsewhere.

This year, police are asking for a 2.92 per cent budget increase.

"We have a number of contractual agreements that we need to factor into the budget," WRPS Finance Director Kirsten Hand said. "Both salary-related as well as benefit-related."

The group "Reallocate WR" believes the increase is unnecessary.

"Send this budget back to WRPS and ask for a resubmission with a zero per cent increase," Aleksandra Szaflarska said. "This is both within the powers of council and we've seen precedent of these things being done in other jurisdictions."

The latest draft of the budget was approved by the Police Services Board at around $185 million.

If approved by council, the average taxpayer would contribute $670 towards policing in 2021, an increase of about $10 from 2020.

The request dropped about $4 million from the first draft, which was released in October.

"As your chief of police, I simply cannot reduce the budget any further without impacting the level of safety of my members," Chief Bryan Larkin said.

Larkin discussed the future of mental health services and BIPOC relations.

"We have been on a path of education awareness, bias training, anti-racism, anti-Black racism training," Larkin said.

Szaflarska's group wants to see mental health professionals directly on the front lines.

"What we ask is that council consider putting in a pilot project for at least six months that would be designed by these organizations who know best how to proceed and how to shift that burden," Szaflarska said.

Larkin provided details on some major crimes investigated in the region last year, along with the costs of those investigations.

The meeting heard recordings from a shooting in Kitchener last June, including 911 calls and a video from an LRT station where the shooting happened on Cedar Street on June 7.

"The first officer arrived within two minutes and 30 seconds and, over the next few minutes, multiple officers arrived to secure the scene," Larkin said.

A man in his 30s suffered gunshot wounds and was taken to hospital. The suspects fled the scene.

Larkin said six empty shells were found at the scene. No arrests have been made, and police believe people in the community may have information that could help the investigation.

This was one of 15 shootings in 2020.

Larkin also discussed the shooting death of a teen in Cambridge in October, one of eight homicides in the region in 2020. A person was charged with second-degree murder the following day.

Larkin said that investigation has used 1,084 investigative hours so far and cost $72,000.

Also in October, three Walmarts in Kitchener and Waterloo were targeted by arson fires in the span of about an hour. That investigation has tallied 1,098 hours and $73,000. Two people have been charged in that case.

Larkin said there were 19 traffic fatalities in 2020, with 20 victims. There were also 1,300 overdoses and 98 people died.

A second public meeting on the budget, focusing specifically on police, is scheduled for Thursday evening. Council will vote on the police budget on Jan. 20.