Keeping Kingston’s police budget increase down hasn’t been an easy task, especially in light of the force looking to hire 10 new officers.
That increase, which will soon be going to council, now stands at 3.78 per cent.
Getting to that point has involved a series of cuts in other areas of the police budget, including the force’s mounted unit.
Chief Antje McNeely says eliminating the mounted unit will save the police force about $48,000.
“It was a lot of discussions with our senior leadership in how we could save some money, as we’re moving forward with the ask of having 10 recruit officers,” McNeely said.
Business owner David Dossett, however, isn’t pleased that patrols in the downtown area won’t include Murney the horse.
He says he’s not aware of any consultation with downtown merchants before the decision was made.
“The amount that they’re saving is $48,000, which isn’t enough to obtain the extra police officers,” Dossett said, “so I was very concerned about the spin that was being put on this.”
Dossett has now started an online petition to keep the mounted unit in Kingston.
“Of course, increase the police presence as they have planned, but do not cancel the mounted police at this time,” he said.
Bruce Davis owns The Alibi, a craft beer pub on Princess Street several blocks west of Dossett’s store.
He’s signed Dossett’s petition and is calling on the public to do more.
“I think people should start by calling the mayor and asking for this to be changed,” Davis said, “and then I would say call your local councillor.”
Both men argue the mounted unit is more than a tourist draw and good public relations.
Davis says the horse provides a visible presence and is part of proactive policing.
“Having the police there beforehand, building relationships with business owners, building relationships with people on the street — there are people in downtown Kingston who need help,” Davis said.
Dossett says the mounted unit also provides a form of policing that foot patrols and officers in cruisers don’t.
“A horse can go a lot places where a car can’t go, and if there is something happening on the street, I think the horse can go a little bit faster than a police officer can on foot,” Dossett said.
Dossett and Davis are hoping to appear before council as a delegation and present the petition to municipal politicians.
City council’s next meeting is Nov. 19.
Municipal budget deliberations begin Nov. 25.
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