On Tuesday, Jun. 20, 2023, Kingston City Council received a report from Kingston Police Force (KP) providing an update on the force’s finances through the first quarter (Q1) of 2023. According to the report, KP was forced to spend more than $140,000 on 2023 St. Patrick’s Day activities at Queen’s University, which was not included in the force’s operating budget for the year.
While the annual springtime celebrations at the university drew heavily on KP’s finances, Acting Chief of Police Scott Fraser described the event as a success when he presented the report to Council on Tuesday night. “We had a pretty successful St. Patrick’s Day,” he said. “Obviously it did cost us money, but it gave us an opportunity to develop a plan and a strategy which had not been done before. We are actually setting a blueprint for these types of events. We can’t turn a blind eye to them; we have to provide enforcement for them. We don’t have a choice.”
Fraser continued, “The proper response is to create a system and develop a strategy that works. We created a police liaison team which consisted of officers who go in before the event in plain clothes to get unfettered access to Queen’s, to speak to the students, and let them know what our strategy is going to be.” He said the pre-emptive approach reduced enforcement, as officers clearly explained the rules to students ahead of time, making them aware that the laws would be enforced.
In terms of tickets issued on St. Patrick’s Day, Fraser explained that the first set of charges recently appeared in court, with the City set to receive approximately $48,000 in revenue from the fines. “We laid [charges for] a lot of Liquor Licence Act offences, so they will come back to the City, not directly to the police,” he noted, stating KP will continue to work with Queen’s to find new ways to offset costs associated with policing at the university.
As for why St. Patrick’s Day events were not included in the force’s operating budget for the year, Fraser said the decision came from a direction issued during the previous City Council term. “It’s my understanding the previous Council had said to leave those funds outside of the budget as it’s an expense that shouldn’t be borne by the police because it’s a City issue,” he said, noting the expenses should be included in future police budgets. Fraser also noted that he only assumed the Acting Chief of Police position recently, and that some of the directives currently being followed by the Force are those that were put in place by former chief Antje McNeely, who is currently “using her holidays,” Fraser said.
“I would be putting it in the budget [in future],” Fraser said. “Now [that] we have a model that we know works, we can certainly adjust the costs. One of our biggest costs is crowd control. Post-Freedom Convoy [referring to the 2022 Ottawa blockades and the ‘Slow Roll’ Convoy in Kingston], crowd control in the province of Ontario has changed, and as a result, we’re seeing different responses.”
The acting chief also explained the force was able to reduce its number of public order units from the five used during 2022 Homecoming celebrations to just one team of 48 officers who were deployed on St. Patrick’s Day. “We won’t see those types of responses again unless the actions precipitate it. However, based on St. Patrick’s Day, all we can see is a de-escalation of our footprint at Queen’s, as it continues to move forward,” he said.
While 2023 St. Patrick’s Day activities accounted for much of Fraser’s presentation on Tuesday night, the Acting Chief was also asked about other issues impacting the police budget, such as KP’s staffing levels. He explained the force is not currently at its full capacity for staffing: “If we look at staffing, deployable staffing versus non-deployable staffing, we’re like any other police service. We have some vacancies that are created, long-term absences, [Workplace Safety and Insurance Board cases are] a big portion of that. And then we have other people [working] in an accommodated capacity, which decreases our numbers.”
In terms of new hires, the Acting Chief did note that KP currently has seven recruits at the Ontario Police College, with room for at least four more in the next class which begins in September. Fraser also confirmed KP is expected to operate at approximately 85 per cent of its staffing complement during this fall’s Homecoming celebrations at Queen’s.
While the initial report to Council noted a quarterly budget deficit of more than $700,000, Fraser explained the information was prepared before KP was able to account for certain government grants and deferred revenues, which he said negated the deficit as initially reported. According to the report, KP will continue to seek grant funding opportunities for “major crime investigations,” in an attempt to cut costs.
The report from the Acting Chief came after Kingston city councillors voted back in March to receive quarterly financial reports from the Police Services Board. A report on Q2 (second quarter) finances is expected at the end of Q3 (third quarter) 2023.
Members of the public can view the full agenda from the meeting on the City of Kingston’s City Council meetings webpage, and the meeting can be viewed in full on the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.