Majority of delegates oppose funding increase for Waterloo Regional Police Service

During its third and final public input meeting for the Region of Waterloo’s 2022 budget, council heard from over 30 delegates, with 27 opposing a proposed increase to the police budget.

Delegates argued the proposed $12 million increase for police should instead be reallocated to social services and housing.

"It should not take hearing the trauma of our stories for you to listen," delegate Selam Debs said on Wednesday.

Debs said her experiences with police have not been positive, including a time when she was robbed at her apartment.

"I had no other choice but to call the police and when they finally arrived after many hours, they told me that there was nothing that they could do, because this is what happens when you live in this type of community," Debs said.

Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin said the proposal would add 35 police officers to help combat a spike in violent crime.

Delegates argued investing in social services would do more for the community than adding officers.

"If our spending habits are any indication of our priorities, then the repeated overemphasis on policing and the underinvestment in other services suggests that as a community we believe that policing is key to healthy communities, but that doesn’t lineup with what the research says, what the community has been saying or what the region's own strategic plan has stated," delegate Suhanya Ketheeswaran said.

"All of that then points us in the direction of reallocation because there’s other services that can do what police are doing but do it better," delegate Judah Oudshoorn said.

Another delegate, Sam Nabi, said more needs to be done to address social issues in the community.

"I don’t care how many upstream initiatives council commits to, or budgets for, if we never actually get them done," Sam Nabi said.

Regional council will approve the final budget on Dec. 15.