Councillor calls for police budget audit

Members of the Prince Albert Police Service SWAT team wait outside a Prince Albert residence in February 2017. -- Herald file photo.

A Prince Albert city councillor is calling for independent auditors to have a closer look at the city’s police budget.

Ward 7 Coun. Dennis Nowoselsky says it’s been too long since auditors went through the roughly $16.5 million the city’ spends on policing. He wants an audit of the 2017 police budget, and a commitment from city council for yearly audits going forward.

“It’s the biggest item of the city’s expenditures, in the neighbourhood of $17 million or $18 million, and it’s not done,” Nowoselsky said following Monday’s city council meeting. “When I found out … I said I can’t believe this. It should be done when the audit is done on every other city department, no matter if it’s a small one. We need an independent third party to check if we’re doing things right.”

The Prince Albert Police Commission is responsible for overseeing police spending, although their budget must be approved every year by city council. The most recent budget was sent back by council, with instructions to trim $200,000 in spending, so there is some financial oversight.

The provincial Police Act of 1990, which sets the rules and guidelines for municipal police commissions, does not explicitly call for yearly audits in its section on “Financial Estimates.” However, it does say city councils have the final say when it comes to police spending, and forbids boards from spending additional money without council approval.

Those laws aren’t enough for Nowoselsky, who credited previous outside audits for cleaning up the city’s financial books.

He added that he’s not expecting to find any signs of foul play. He simply thinks it’s a smart habit to get into.

“It should be standard practice,” he said. “Any major public organization should have an independent professional body give a public audit.”

Nowoselsky has been a constant critic of the city’s spending priorities, particularly when it comes to the police budget. He strongly advocated against passing last fall’s initial police budget, despite being one of two city councillors on the police board that approved it. At the time, he called for more focus on community programs like an expanded neighbourhood watch.

Since then, a few residents in the city have started neighbourhood watch programs, with strong support from the Prince Albert Police Service.

The majority of the police department spending goes towards salaries for more than 100 employees.