There is more to policing than money
by Sandy Lindsay

September 26, 2016

Town Council

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Art Knechtel Deputation:

Art Knechtel, former Mayor of Southampton, once again came before Saugeen Shores Council regarding the possibility of switching from local municipal policing to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) service.

Knechtel reiterated that he feels it would be cost effective to follow through with the change.

"They have the most up to date equipment in the world ... a plane, helicopter, sonar and boats.  I feel that our family of police would be well looked after.  All I am doing is asking for an investigation into costing."

Knechtel said that he feels he has been misunderstood. "I pointed out to Chief Dan Rivett that I was on a different route than him. What would happen to the present police force, their kids, their families ... would they be all upset?  Would they be hired on?" (going with OPP).

He said that he had spent most of the summer doing a lot of research on the topic and, according to Knechtel, they would be absorbed into the 'new' police force and the town would still see the same friendly officers serving as well as they did in the past.

It is written in the OPP model however, that police officers are required to go where needed.  In addition, the service has no requirement for municipal officers or community involvement.

According to Knechtel, local police if absorbed would benefit with better wages, excellent benefits, better pensions and the most up to date equipment in the world.  With a crisis situation however, the OPP and other services, such as the Coast Guard, are called upon and respond, in a one-time situation.

Knechtel said he felt the municipality would benefit from reduced costs compared policing to Kincardine's OPP coverage, whom he felt might have saved ..."one wagon load of money over 20 years."

"Let's look at a new build," said Knechtel.  "Would they need a new build?  I don't know, nobody does.  Take a look ... they are in Kincardine, Walkerton, Chatsworth, Wiarton." (all in new builds).  It has been indicated that with each new OPP detachment a new build has been required at an average cost of $6 - $7 million.

Knechtel went on to say that local municipal police services in the province are down to eight. (actually the number is 15 in communities with 'comparable' populations to Saugeen Shores ... the total overall is 53)

"The day of municipal policing is over," he said.  "You can flog a dead horse as much as you want but you won't get any reaction.  Some things in life you have to accept.  You have to accept the things you cannot change, change the things we can and have the wisdom to know the difference."

He then told Council that they have the "... golden key to  open the door and are the only ones to ask for a costing from the OPP and if they don't they are acting irresponsibly".

He added that there are many municipalities trying to do the same thing (change to OPP). 

In fact, according to sources, there are many municipalities that are trying to go back to municipal policing.

Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau

Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau who is also Chair of the Saugeen Shores Police Board, admitted that he and Knechtel had discussed the subject (OPP vs. Local policing) several times and that he had encouraged Knechtel to come before Council to express his views.

"Unfortunately, and with the greatest respect, I have to disagree with you on this particular point," said Charbonneau.  "I have thought a lot about this topic over the years and the thing that it always comes down to, for me, is that I will not accept, and cannot even consider, the possibility of surrendering local control of another vital municipal institution to Queen's Park.

Look at the Bluewater School Board. It is talking about an accommodation review of local schools for closure. There was a time when we had strong local municipal control of our schools ... a time when schools raised taxes and directly controlled the schools and determined how they would operate and that went out the window almost 20 years ago.  When that control was taken away and sent down to the folks on University Avenue (Toronto), how has that worked out today?  How has that worked out for the people of Paisley, Chesley, Markdale, OSCVI in Owen Sound, Derby, Bruce Central ... and how do you think that's going to work out in Southampton? 

Click the orange arrow to read the second column

That's what happens when we take strong municipal institutions and give that control to the folks on University Avenue and they take University Avenue ideas and solutions and try to apply them on High Street (Southampton) or Gustavus Street (Port Elgin) or County Road 3 (Saugeen Township).  It just doesn't work.

It wasn't that long ago when we had more control over the Green Energy Project than we do today ... and how did that work out?  How did the control from University Avenue work out for the folks in Huron-Kinloss or municipalities all over this province or a few of the unfortunate people south of Port Elgin ... not so well.

Therefore, I cannot and will not, for me, accept the possibility of surrendering another municipal institution to Queen's Park, the Premier or her successors because I think that every time we do that ... we end up the losers here in rural Ontario and I will not do it again ... not with an important one like this. 

Another thing, about the cost savings ... the $1.3 million between us and Kincardine.  It's important to be real clear.  There are no magic wands or potions.  If you cut $1.3 million from the Saugeen Shores police service, or whether the OPP does it, you will not end up with the same level of service.  It's true that 85% of costs are wages and benefits ... but that's true for the OPP, that's true for Saugeen Shores staff or police.  If you cut that amount, you are in fact cutting one-third of the cost that is one-third of the dollar value in service in Saugeen Shores.  Even that doesn't reflect the level of service .   The fact is we have been working at reducing costs for some time but the truth is there is no magic solution. It's hard work.  I was there when we reduced the service and then when we reduced the canine unit because it was more than the community required.  That's difficult. 

I don't think it's in our interest or the interest of our community to go out and chase rainbows and think that we are going to get the same service for the same amount of money.  It's just not going to happen.  I think the best thing we can do is try to build a strong service, a cost effective service and a locally controlled service.  That is the principle on which I am going to stand and I think is the right way to go."

Councilor Cheryl Grace also said that she had had several discussions residents over the past few months.

"I appreciate this being brought to Council but it is a very tricky thing.  Last week, as part of the Saugeen Shores Town Hall committee, I went to Elmer and toured their historic town hall.  The guide and the former mayor said that they have a municipal police force but are in the same discussions as we are.  They however, said they want to "stick with their own police force". 

To read more about the official OPP document ...
Read Here.

Grace also said that she had been in discussion with a local family who has had some 'troubles' with a teenager.  The mother said, "It is not all quantifiable because I have had our police officers come in and sit and talk with my youngster and say, I'll be back to talk again and give some guidance.  That is something that is a 'Lamborghini' service."

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016