Pointing to a growing number of suburban and rural residents, Halifax-district RCMP want to add 16 new constables to their ranks in the next three years.

The Mounties made the request in a report to the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners, which meets next Wednesday. The Halifax Regional Police budget is also on the agenda, but the report hadn’t been posted as of Friday afternoon.

Halifax regional council budgeted $32.3 million for the RCMP in 2022-2023, an increase of 9.8% over the previous year. That increase was based on an estimated salary increase for newly-unionized RCMP officers. That figure rose through the year by another $642,500 based on the actual increase, municipal finance staff reported last month.

For next year, fiscal 2023-2024, the RCMP are looking to add four constables. They’re also asking for six more each in the 2024-2025 and 2025-2026 years.

“This request will provide an improved proportional rate of policing for HRM residents serviced by the RCMP while remaining fiscally responsive to HRM,” reads the report, with no author listed.

As of this year, HRM’s cost per officer is $179,052. That’s 70% of the total cost, with the federal government footing the remainder of the bill. At that price, the RCMP’s request would add $716,208 to HRM’s policing costs in 2023-2034, and more than $1 million each in the next two years.

Population growth has outpaced number of new officers

There are currently 183 RCMP officers in the Halifax district, and one civilian employee. The RCMP said there have only been seven officers added in the past 10 years, 1% growth, while the population in RCMP-policed areas has risen more than 8%.

The RCMP is responsible for policing in suburban and rural HRM. It breaks the area into Tantallon, Sackville, Cole Harbour, Musquodoboit, North Central, and Sheet Harbour detachments.

“In 2021, the population of HRM was 439,819, of this, 188,864 residents or 43% are within RCMP jurisdiction (remaining 250,955 residents or 57% falling outside RCMP area),” the Mounties wrote in their report.

While it contains less than half the population, the Mounties note their coverage area is 95% of HRM’s landmass.

“The vast geography of Halifax District results in longer response times depending on the location of the call for service and the closest responding officer,” the RCMP wrote.

Growth in those areas is making policing more difficult, the RCMP argue.

“Many former rural residential areas in HRM have grown at an extraordinary rate in the last five years,” they wrote.

“These communities are comprised of densely populated areas in large subdivisions, including diverse long-term care homes, seniors living, multiunit dwellings, apartments or condominiums and commercial space adding population to HRM.”

The RCMP also cited a growing number of mental health service calls, and speeding and road safety complaints.

New budget process

The request comes to the police board as part of a new process for setting the budget. That process, approved in October, means Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP bring requested staffing levels to the board and then council. Council will approve the staffing level, and then the board will work on the actual budget.

In the case of the RCMP, the provincial and federal governments are also involved. The province negotiates the actual cost.

Halifax’s unique hybrid policing model, with HRP policing urban areas and RCMP suburban and rural areas, is currently under review.

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. “Council will approve the staffing level, and then the board will work on the actual budget”.  Given  that staff salaries make up roughly 93% of the  police budget and most of the rest of the budget is used for purchase/lease of equipment, vehicles and buildings, it would not appear that there is much “actual budget” left for the Police Board left to address once Regional Council has agreed to staffing levels. If this is the new budgeting process, why bother having the Police Board at all?
    Wouldn’t it also seem premature to approving  any future increases to RCMP staffing levels until the report on the Portapique massacre is tabled and Regional Council has decided on the recommendations of the Defunding the Police Report.