Policing - food for thought
by Sandy Lindsay
September 25, 2016
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Let me preface this by saying that this is NOT about the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), who are only trying to do their job. This is, hopefully, about balance as there has been 'talk' in the community of Saugeen Shores about looking into trading off local policing for OPP services.
First of all, in Ontario, there are in fact, 15 local police services in communities similar in size in population and/or geography to Saugeen Shores:
Some communities in Ontario did decide to take the plunge and changed their local policing service to OPP however, according to several reports not everyone is happy with the decision— particularly with resulting rising costs.
Local policing or 'stand-alone' service brings with it many benefits: 24-hour policing, constant patrols, a set number of officers in the community at all times, officers who are integrated within the community through family life, a presence that knows a community's intricacies.
OPP on the other hand is considered a 'response' service where there is no guaranteed number of officers in the community, which can affect response time, as some communities are discovering. The following actions are laid out in the OPP Service Delivery document:
In addition, OPP is under the jurisdiction of the province so that a community has little or no input as to policing decisions, including budgets. "Responsibility for the cost recovery process for OPP policing services provided to municipalities resides with the government."
A new funding formula was brought in by the provincial government on January 1, 2015 to try to balance the cost of policing. Under the new formula, lower cost communities supposedly would pay more, others less. In this way, the government and policing officials hoped to ease the general unhappiness about rising costs of policing in Ontario. Under the new model, 207 municipalities across Ontario saw an increased cost, while 115 saw a decrease. The model also now charges per property instead of per household, making commercial properties responsible for costs as well.
The OPP currently provides policing to 323 municipalities through 66 host detachments with a total budget of $1.064 Billion. Recoveries from the municipalities for 2016 will be $398 Million or $352 per property.
The OPP billing model is provincially focused and divides the majority of municipal policing costs into two categories - Base Service and Calls for Service
Base Service: (Allocated among municipalities on an equal per property basis using Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) data)
• Legislated activities (e.g., crime prevention, officer availability to respond to emergency calls for service 24 hours a day, general and directed patrol, victim assistance, etc.)
• Proactive policing (e.g., RIDE, traffic safety, community policing, intelligence gathering etc.)
• Officer training and administrative duties
• All Inspector and Staff Sergeant positions
Calls for Service (based on individual municipal usage level)
Additional Costs: (Municipalities billed on their individual usage:)
Unfortunately, many smaller communities saw dramatic increases after going with OPP and municipalities have been raising concerns.
Penetanguishene, for instance, decided to disband its local police force and their costs immediately jumped and nearby Tiny Township saw a 40 per cent cost increase, almost overnight when the new formula came in.
Some communities also reported that, although they had requested a costing, which takes two years or more, they were concerned when they learned that the final rate that would be paid would not be calculated until three years after making the switch in service.
In addition, change-over to a new service also almost always means a new building. In Wellington North region, a new $7.5 million county-built detachment in Teviotdale replaced the former Palmerston OPP detachment. The 18,600- square foot facility will house all of the Wellington North region OPP officers under one roof and came in at a cost of $7.5 million in 2014.
Along with education and health, policing is one of those pillars that the people of a community cannot do without however, any decision should not be purely financial.
One of the challenges that other communities also raised is they can’t go backwards. If a decision is made to go with the OPP and it becomes too expensive later on and/or the community is not happy with the service ... there would be no option and there would be no going back.
Therefore, all things considered, the question will require an in-depth look at balancing all the pros and cons ... and not just in monetary terms.
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Monday, September 26, 2016