The Edmonton Police Association is warning that city council's decision not to give EPS the number of new officers they were asking for could potentially put the public at risk.

Council approved 35 new officers for the downtown area in 2015, but EPS had requested 84. Sgt. Tony Simioni says the decision will put a strain on the Service.

“We're going have some grave consequences in public safety and in our ability to get to the calls in a timely fashion, where we already are having difficulty.” Simioni told media on Friday.

He says crime is up overall in Edmonton, and the downtown area is already a particular concern, more than a year before the new arena is set to open.

“87 percent of all violent crime occurs in the downtown area, and that's before the arena's built,” Simioni says, “And it takes 18 months to 2 years to attract, recruit and train those members up to acceptable standards, so it's not like we can wait for the arena to be built and then hire the police officers, because then we're two years behind in the cycle.”

Mayor Don Iveson said on Wednesday that he would like to see the province chip in to help pay for policing in Edmonton.

“A number of us felt the need to draw the line in the sand on how much policing costs the taxpayers of Edmonton,” Iveson said, “I feel a really strong mandate, stronger than ever, from my colleagues to go to the legislature to articulate this need Edmonton has for community safety both prevention and service level reaction.”

Council passed a 5.7% tax increase to pay for the 35 new officers as well as other programs. Simioni says he understands that there isn’t enough funding for everything, but he believes the EPS should be a higher priority.

“We're the only agency that's open twenty four seven, 365 days. So many agencies have shut down services due to lack of funding or whatever the case may be, and it's been downloaded on sloughed off on the men and women in the Edmonton Police Service.”

It would have cost council $13 million to pay for the 84 new officers the EPS was asking for.


With files from Ashley Molnar