There are only six community safety officers (CSOs) currently on duty in the city of Thompson and information presented at council's Jan. 2 meeting indicates that there are no current plans to fill the two vacant positions.
One of the positions has been vacant for a while and the other became vacant when the officer was hired by the Ontario Provincial Police, according to the public safety committee report for July to December 2017 presented at the meeting. "City Council has approved the CSO Program for 6 officers for 2018," said the report.
Earlier, during the general inquiries portion of the meeting, resident Martin Grier asked about the CSO program.
"What's happening with the CSOs?" he said. "Are you going to cut them out?"
City manager Gary Ceppetelli said council will determine where funds for the program will come from during the 2018 budget deliberation process.
"When the final decisions are made, then prior to the budget being put out it will be brought to the public for presentation," said deputy mayor Colleen Smook, who was chairing the meeting because Mayor Dennis Fenske was in Winnipeg.
"You're going to lay off a bunch of city workers but you're going to keep the CSOs?" asked Grier.
"There's been no talk like that," said Smook. "Absolutely nothing is on the cutting board right now."
For the first two years of the CSO pilot program, which ended late last May, the city and the provincial government split the cost of about $300,000 per year. Since the two-year pilot period ended, the city has borne all the costs of the program. A letter received in the summer from Attorney General and Justice Minister Heather Stefanson in response to a letter from Fenske said that the pilot program review was assessing the program’s impact on public safety and policing resources and that her department would be contacting the city soon to discuss the CSO program.