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London, Ont. police budget gets endorsement from major public figures

The London police service’s record-setting $672-million budget has received ringing endorsements from several major community figures, including the president of Western University and the CEO of St. Joseph’s Healthcare.

This comes as London Mayor Josh Morgan tabled his own city budget with a 2024 tax increase of 8.8 per cent, with 5 per cent coming from the police budget alone.

If approved by the city council, the budget would modernize the force, buy needed equipment, and build a new training centre.

189 new hires would also be brought on, including 97 new officers.

London’s police force is one of the least staffed in the province, with the second lowest per-capita number of officers and the worst response times in Ontario.

“We’re talking about modern technology, we’re talking about better training, we’re talking about a comprehensive package that the totality once you add it together, will make London safer,” says London Police Services Board Chair Ali Chahbar. “You add all of these things together in addition to new leadership with a new collaborative approach, you’ll see results very, very quickly.”

At a press conference Wednesday, heads of Western University, Fanshawe College, London Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph’s Health Care, Thames Valley District School Board, and the London District Catholic School Board all endorsed the budget request.

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“(This budget) will help make London an even stronger destination of choice for young leaders and professionals and their families,” said Western president Alan Shepard.

Vince Romeo, director of education for the London District Catholic School Board, threw the full support of the board behind the budget.

“Having an appropriate budget is just one way to respond to the complex needs any growing city experiences,” said Romeo. “London Police Services is committed to…ensuring all Londoners are welcomed, included, and safe right here in our city”

When asked if the support of community leaders would convince Londoners of the budget despite the major hit to taxes, Chahbar simply said “yes.”

“It speaks to the fact that this is not just a London Police initiative. It has widespread community support,” said Chahbar. “If you go talk to Londoners, you’ll find that the vast majority of Londoners support and want and deserve a safer city and safer neighbourhoods and safer streets. That’s reflected in the police budget.”

The London Police Association has also endorsed the budget, saying police in London have been underfunded over the last decade.

Council will deliberate the mayor’s budget Thursday morning starting at 9:30, continuing throughout the month. Another public participation meeting will be held at city hall on Feb. 27 at 4 p.m.

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