Transcription of the deputation by Michael Speers to Barrie City Council on March 8, 2023
Michael Speers, Contributing Member
Mayor Nuttall and members of council. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you this evening about the 2023 police budget.
Let me get right to the point: This police budget request is ridiculous, and approving it would be a dereliction of your duty as members of council. I say this because your consent would, in essence, be telling the police that this exorbitant request is, in fact, a legitimate request, and such a decision fundamentally abandons the values people in this city should expect their representatives to hold.
It’s putting the police ahead of the regular, everyday citizens of Barrie.
Why is this the case? There are many, many reasons, but I’ll use my limited time to focus on a few.
During these tough financial times when many of our friends and neighbours are being gouged for rent, utilities and groceries – just to name a few expenses – the police service has no right – NO RIGHT – to consider themselves outside of the boundaries of fiscal restraint and responsibility. Why is there never a cost of living crisis for the police? Think about it.
This money could be spent on better crime prevention tools. You need to realize that police don't prevent a lot of crime. They just show up after it happens. Crime prevention starts with investments in services, resources and programs. Communities with the least amount of crime have the most amount of resources, not the most police officers. But please don’t take my word for it. A 2020 review by the Washington Post examining spending on state and local police over the past 60 years showed no correlation between spending and crime rates. Spending more on policing doesn’t lower the crime rate and spending less doesn’t increase it. How, then, can council justify giving the police such a large budget increase if it won’t actually lead to a safer city?
It’s not very fiscally responsible. Even the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has advised against the increasing flow of money to police. A few years ago, they came out saying that the increases in Canadian police budgets were unsustainable and were crowding out early intervention and crime prevention to the detriment of public safety. Police are a drain on society. Big police budgets starve other services and resources which leads to issues of crime, then we give the police more money, starving other resources even further in the process, and then we see more crime. And it goes round and round. We all lose, except for the police who continue to see more and more money thrown their way.
Increased police budgets are representative of our society’s unequal investment in male-dominated jobs over those whose ranks are filled mostly by women. I think this is especially important to remember today – International Women’s Day.
Policing has no place in a modern society. It is a racist and archaic institution created two centuries ago to dispossess, control and suppress. It is designed to protect property and strengthen a system of economic and social brutality. Police use their monopoly on violence to prevent attacks against the system, but don’t do a very good job of preventing crimes against people. Policing was designed for individualism – to protect individual, or private, property; police were not created with a collective approach. You can say “community-based policing” until your blue in the face, but it won’t change the fact that policing has nothing to do with community. They say there are only two ways to believe that police are helpful – either you’ve never had any contact with police, or you depend on police repression to protect your wealth.
As I’ve said in previous deputations, we do need to keep in mind that this debate isn’t just about reallocating money. Defunding the police – which I am a strong proponent of – is about deciding as a community how we want to care for and look out for each other. Our system has starved our community of the vital services it needs for far too long. That must change.
It’s important to understand that defunding the police also needs to be considered within the context of a wider shift of how we view our economic relations to each other and to production, and how we can wrest away control of our lives from a rigged system that exacerbates racism and inequality. Capitalism creates and criminalizes poverty. Police are used to enforce this.
Members of council: change is always happening; it can’t be stopped; nothing in our society, nothing in our community is static; we either embrace change for the betterment of our city or we maintain the status quo and fail to meet the challenges put before us.
Will there ever be a time when the police's appetite is satisfied? Or will their budget continue to grow – as it has – leaving a city with less and less money, unable to fund important programs for its citizens?
It’s sad that while this city can’t seem to find money for a permanent, 24-hour warming centre, we seem to always be able to find money for increased policing. It’s time to change that; it’s time we had a city council that does its job and works on real solutions to real problems facing this city.
Stop relying on the same old playbook. Refuse this budget increase and use the money for the services we need.
Remember: We fund what we value; we police what we don’t.
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