Moncton councillors pushed back on a request to spend millions next year to add more Codiac Regional RCMP officers, saying they need more data and should wait for the results of a policing study.
The Codiac Regional Policing Authority, the civilian board overseeing Codiac RCMP, has recommended increasing the number of Mounties by 25 to 172 and hiring 18 more civilian staff in 2023.
It follows residents and businesses calling for more action on crime, while others seek to defund police in favour of other social services.
"It's going to be a very difficult decision by council," Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold said. "We get it every day from both extremes."
Don Moore, chair of the policing authority, presented the organization's proposed 2023 budget to councillors.
Moore said the board wants the increase next year, but he also offered options for spreading it over three and five years.
"Our belief is that we will be safer one year after full implementation," Moore said.
He said it would likely take a full year for the extra officers to make a difference and waiting would slow that result.
The recommendation, which wasn't voted on Monday, sets the stage for municipal budget deliberations this fall.
Budget could rise to $51M
It's projected to cost $8.2 million if carried out in 2023.
That would be on top of a budget increase of $3.8 million for inflation and equipment replacement, an increase expected whether or not more Mounties are added.
Together, the policing authority budget would increase from $39 million this year to $51 million.
Moncton covers 71 per cent of the budget, and city staff say they're analyzing what implications for the city's budget and tax rate.
Without any other changes to the budget, the increased spending could mean an eight cent tax-rate increase.
Councillors who spoke appeared to be uncomfortable with the plan.
Coun. Shawn Crossman said it's coming up as the city spends $57 million on a new RCMP station downtown. It is expected to be complete in January 2025.
Coun. Charles Léger, who chaired the policing authority for years until January, said the recommendation was made without sufficient data.
"I see this as a reaction - people were frustrated," Léger said. "I get it. We get calls every single day."
He said councillors need to know what specific results would be accomplished, and he was "very disappointed."
"I spent a lot of time on the CRPA and certainly from my perspective I, maybe I have high standards. … There needs to be some background to this.
"Right now it's like, here's here's our wish list, please give us the money. I keep hearing 'we believe.' Well, I believe in a lot of things too, but that's not gonna help me at the end of the day. We need facts."
Deputy Mayor Bryan Butler, a former Mountie who has regularly said the city needs more officers, said he thinks the increase could be larger but the cost is a problem for taxpayers.
The request comes as Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview jointly study whether to keep the RCMP or change to another policing model.
"I will wait for the experts that we've hired for the police study before I make any decision," Coun. Daniel Bourgeois said.
The study by Perivale and Taylor Consulting Inc. is expected to examine the number of officers needed to police the three communities.
It's expected to be complete next year, after councillors will need to finalize the 2023 policing budget.
Coun. Paulette Theriault said the study may show the same goals could be accomplished with less spending.
Bourgeois repeatedly asked the policing authority chair whether it had examined any scientific evidence when deciding whether hiring more officers would help.
Moore said the recommendation was based on consultations with 80 groups or individuals over the past year.
A 30-page report cites growing perceptions the region is becoming less safe and a need for a more visible police force.
Moore said increasing the size of the force was one of the first things he wanted to do after becoming board chair in January, saying he has been able to convince the other board members.
Léger, asked why he hadn't made a similar recommendation while board chair, said the RCMP had attempted to address the number of officers out on leave, which had affected staffing levels.
He also said the board was also sorting out governance issues and had set the groundwork for the consultations that led to the recommendation.
The policing authority is expected to present its proposed budget to councils in Dieppe and Riverview this month.