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Nenshi says 'it is time' for police to consider cutting budget

Last Updated Sep 4, 2020 at 1:09 pm MST

The Calgary Police Service's headquarters building is shown in Calgary, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — As calls to defund police services grow around Canada and the United States, Calgary’s mayor agrees it’s a conversation that needs to happen locally.

This week, Alberta’s new Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu flatly rejected the idea in an interview and said this is not the appropriate time to talk about reducing budgets for police.

In response to a question on the issue on Friday, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the opposite, as the city continues to explore savings in their overall budget.

“Police are the largest line item in the city budget. We cannot go into the kind of budget we’re looking at, where we’re looking at as many savings for taxpayers as possible, without looking at the largest line item in our budget,” Nenshi said.

The question also came a day after the Calgary Firefighters Association raised alarms about a specific question in the city’s engagement survey about budget savings, which proposes cutting funding to the fire department and increasing response times by 30 seconds.

RELATED: ‘Seconds count’: Firefighters sound alarm over potential budget cut

Nenshi said the conversation gets muddled a little bit when people presume the movement is about completely abolishing all police services when it’s often more in line with reallocating some resources to better serve the community.

This can include moving funding from police into mental health treatment and crisis management on the streets.

“I’ve made it extremely clear my opinion on the matter to the police chief, which is that every other department at the city has faced austerity over the last six years and it is time for the police to show us cost savings,” he said. “I’ve also been very clear on the fact that we need a better mental health response system, we need different work that does a better job on fighting institutional racism in the city. Perhaps, some of that funding can come from the police.”

There will be a meeting next week at city council with members of Calgary police speaking to councillors, and Nenshi is hopeful they can talk about this a bit more in-depth.

At the same time, Nenshi called on citizens to make their voices heard and encourage a constructive conversation on the topic.

“Tell us the kind of system that would work better, so that we have an opportunity to see what that looks like as well.”