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The operating budget increase of $498,300 mainly stems from a plan to hire five new special constables to replace five sergeants, primarily the ones who manage staff in the communications centre, the board heard.
Sergeants, who can perform policing duties, transfer to new assignments after a period of time. Cooper said the idea behind having the special constables there would be to eliminate knowledge loss with senior personnel not transferring elsewhere within the organization.
The five sergeants currently in those roles would move into other areas, such as investigations. Police project an initial increase in expenses next year, but overall cost savings of $467,000 by 2030.
The reallocation of sergeants will likely also mean that police would have personnel available to double the number of Police and Crisis Teams (PACT) to four. Each PACT is comprised of one officer and one mobile crisis worker; they respond to mental health and addictions related calls.
Cooper said he has brought his request to increase the number of teams to the steering committee that includes police, the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Ministry of Health, which partner in PACT. The increase now rests with an agreement on the health authority’s side to fund two additional mobile crisis workers for the two new PACT teams.
Police also anticipate increased costs and reduced revenues stemming from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Cooper said police work within existing “budget lines” rather than ask for increases.
“That’s what we’ve done in 2020 and we’re hopeful we can continue to do that,” he said.