The purpose of my letter is to register my sincere opposition to the “defund the police” lobby. I empathize with the family of Mr. Floyd, regarding the excessive use of force. Instead of defunding the police, I implore our government to increase funding. With the increased funding we can ensure our police force is well-staffed, well-equipped and well-trained. The funding will also allow for sufficient civilian oversight. Canada’s police are essential for a free, safe and secure society.
Reducing funding will not make our communities safe. Given the current environment with Covid-19, which has resulted in vast unemployment across our country, many families find themselves in a difficult situation. Now is not the time for defunding our police force. As indicated on the Stats Canada website, as the unemployment rate rises so does the rate of homicides. Given this positive correlation, a reduction in funding would put countless individuals in harm’s way, making our neighbourhoods more dangerous than ever.
There are several ways to improve the finances of our police force. The first of these is overtime. Working overtime does nothing to reduce the number of 911 calls. Cutting budgets for overtime likewise does nothing to reduce the need for it. If staffing levels were sufficient (including times when officers are on mandatory training, desk duty, and suspended) then officers would not be required to work overtime. This would save the department millions, which could be reallocated to ensure proper staffing and training. Excessive overtime results in an inefficient and stressed police force, which is detrimental to optimum performance. Understaffing is known to be associated with increased absenteeism and burnout, high staff turnover, administrative and communication bottlenecks and backlogs, increased public complaints and poor safety statistics, as well as excessive overtime, in any organization or business. The interests of society will not be served by cutting police budgets. In the event we call 911, we want to know that there is someone available to respond within a reasonable time.
Our greatest concern is not whether or not a criminal is apprehended. Our concern is for our officers’ safety. They need to be adequately equipped to do their job efficiently and effectively. Our media has completely ignored this issue. Have we so easily forgotten all the officers who have died in the line of duty? Do we forget the contributions of constables like Heidi Stevenson who lost her life this year defending the people of Nova Scotia? It grieves me to think who will answer the call the next time there is a mass murder or a terrorist attack. With an ill-equipped police force I fear for the lives of our brave men and women in uniform.
Our police and military officers experience a great deal in the line of duty. We need to provide them with exceptional support services. It is unreasonable to ask so much of them and then abandon them in their time of need.
Certainly, we need to address the socioeconomic root causes of criminal activity. However, I am concerned that we are becoming a society where criminals have free reign to operate with impunity.
In interesting times such as those we are currently experiencing, policing becomes even more important. In the interests of safe and secure society, I urge the Government of Canada to give our police services the priority they deserve by increasing their funding.
Dr. Ellen Amundsen-Case DVM