Saturday, July 20, 2024

Belleville Police Service makes desperate plea for funding, more boots on the ground

Belleville Police Service – Photo by Hollie Pratt-Campbell/Hometownist

Belleville police made a mental health-focused funding plea to Belleville City Council in today’s 2024 budget talks (Tuesday, Feb. 27).

Police Chief Mike Callaghan told council the changing mental health of the community needs to be addressed with better services. And the lack of officers active in Belleville, he said, is leading to mental health issues within the city’s police force itself.

“Who knew we would see our community afflicted with so many mental health and addiction challenges?“ he asked. “Our women and men on the front line are facing compassion fatigue and mental health problems like I’ve never seen in 39 years of service.”

Callaghan asked council for an increase of 10.49 per cent over last year’s budget to hire another eight officers to meet the increasing demand for police service in 2024.

Currently, Belleville has roughly four or five officers on the streets at a time, and with a 20 percent increase in calls for police assistance over the last two years, Callaghan said that it’s just not good enough.

“We can no longer place these kinds of demands on our members without psychologically breaking them. I’m going to repeat that again. We can no longer place these kinds of demands on our members without psychologically breaking them and it’s going to happen.”

Because of the lack of officers, he said there is an increased chance of police entering dangerous situations without support, an inability to take needed breaks, and – referencing the recent drug overdose crisis on Feb. 6 – lowered opportunities to intercept dangerous drugs and substances entering the community.

“Our business owners and community are expecting more from us,” he said. “Increasing our numbers will ensure they all get their time off, lunches and opportunities to decrease their stress.”

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