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Bowman vows to add police without increasing taxes

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>At a campaign event on Wednesday at Harrow Park playground in River Heights, Brian Bowman said he has found a way to add about a dozen police officers without increasing the tax burden.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

At a campaign event on Wednesday at Harrow Park playground in River Heights, Brian Bowman said he has found a way to add about a dozen police officers without increasing the tax burden.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/9/2018 (617 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Mayor Brian Bowman promised Wednesday to increase boots-on-the-ground policing without increasing taxes, but the head of the police union said the mayor is doing so on the backs of police officers.

Bowman pledged to remove overtime when calculating retiring police officers' pensionable earnings; a plan he said would save about $1.5 million annually from the police budget, which could be used to pay for 10 to 15 more officers.

"The leader of the police union, Mo Sabourin, has been very clear in what he's looking for. He has said he wants more front-line officers. This provides a path forward in a way that doesn't ask taxpayers to pay more," said Bowman before a backdrop of the Harrow Park playground in River Heights.

Sabourin, the Winnipeg Police Association president, said 18 officers would be needed to staff an additional police car based on the six-shift model with training and time off.

"The numbers he's quoting of the number of officers that could be hired wouldn't even fill half of a cruiser car. He's trying to put the decision back on us," Sabourin said.

"What Mayor Bowman is doing is deflecting away from the actual problem of public safety. I think he's upset with our public safety campaign and he's trying to tarnish the (union) by bringing the fact to the public that overtime is pensionable. What a lot of people don't realize is the service has the ability to limit overtime."

Sabourin said Winnipeg receives "a bargain" because police overtime pays time-and-a-half, not double-time like many other police services in Canada.

Bowman said "it is ultimately council's decision should the pensionable earnings of overtime be eliminated" under the Winnipeg Police Pension bylaw and wouldn't need to be approved by the union or Winnipeg Police Board.

Mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk disputed that statement Wednesday in an emailed response.

"If he intends to add front-line police officers by eliminating overtime from their pensionable earnings, he will have to break a 2017 collective bargaining agreement with the Winnipeg Police Association," she stated. "And even if he did find a way to add 10 front-line officers, it would still be a drop in the bucket."

She said her community safety plan includes re-deploying dozens of officers to the front line.

Bowman pledged to work with the police board in increase "efficient and effective core policing activities," and denied assertions that the police budget has been reduced.

"It's been increased every single year since 2014. Over the last four years, funding to the police has increased 10 per cent while the City of Winnipeg's overall budget has increased only eight per cent," Bowman said. He said the police service's $291-million budget is the largest of all city departments and represents 27 per cent of all city expenditures.

Bowman said he will create a new community safety and crime-prevention fund of $400,000 over four years from Civic Initiatives Fund resources. Community groups and non-profit agencies could access the money to help reduce crime and address safety issues in their neighbourhoods.

"No city can arrest their way into becoming a safe city, and it's not fair to expect our police department to do it all," Bowman said.

The civic election is on Oct. 24.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

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