Province will provide funding for CSO program this year, but only half as much as before

The provincial government has agreed to provide the city with some funding for the community safety officer (CSO) program, but only half as much as it did during the first two years of the program from May 2015 to 2017 and there's no commitment for further funding beyond this year.

"Manitoba Justice is providing $150,000 this fiscal year to support Thompson community safety officer program," a Manitoba Justice spokesperson said in an email to the Thompson Citizen.

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Over the first two years of the program, the province provided $300,000 per year, roughly half of the program's annual budget, which was about $660,000 for eight CSOs. There will only be six CSOs this year, as two officers have resigned and not been replaced. The city has paid all the costs of the program since late May, when the two-year pilot program funding agreement with the province expired. Other costs associated with the program have included about $27,000 for training prior to the officers hitting the streets in June 2015, about $28,000 for uniforms, duty belts and ballistic vests, as well as about $62,000 for two vehicles with safety partitions and window bars.

Training and Employment Services provided a wage subsidy of about $43,000 for the first four months the CSOs were on the job in 2015, and $15,000 previously contributed to the downtown ambassador program by Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries was applied to the costs of the CSO program in 2016-17 with the city providing matching funds.

"This council, through the budget preparation for 2017, agreed to continue the payment to cover those CSOs that were in position, which was six, until the year end of 2017," said Mayor Dennis Fenske in response to a question from Martin Grier at the Jan. 15 council meeting. "Subsequently, the 2018 budget, we have made provisions to cover the cost for six CSOs. It’s been indicated to us that the province will provide a one-time payment of $125,000 towards the CSO program going forward, and that the legislation in place that provides the powers for the CSOs will remain indefinitely."

Establishing the program required an amendment to the Police Services Act to allow CSOs to enforce the Liquor and Gaming Control Act, the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act, the Child and Family Services Act, the Mental Health Act, and the Highway Traffic Act.

In response to a follow-up question, city manager Gary Ceppetelli said the cost for the city to operate the program in 2018 would probably be around $450,000 to $475,000.

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