Motion for Police study is defeated
by Sandy Lindsay
December 12, 2016
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The recommendation that the Town issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for consultant services to conduct a Police Services Service Review, with an upset limit of $25,000,was defeated five to four at Monday night's Council meeting.
Those in favour of the study going forward were Councilors Cheryl Grace, Mike Myatt, Don Matheson and John Rich, while Mayor Mike Smith, Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau, Vice-Deputy Mayor Diane Huber and Councilors Neil Menage and Dave Myette were opposed.
At recent budget meetings, Council deferred making a decision on the construction of a new police building until it received more information on other communities that had either decided to switch to OPP service or stay with their local servicce.
Prior to voting, Council heard two delegations ... one from Kent Milroy and the other from the Police Association's Greg Fletcher.
Kent Milroy said that he had discovered facts relating to other municipalities that "...scared me to death!" He also said that the OPP was one of the finest forces found anywhere but was simply not suitable for Saugeen Shores. "Even the move towards requesting a proposal is problematic because it can send the signal that Council has concerns and doubts about the future of our police service and starts the erosion of the confidence of the public," said Milroy.
After considerable research, he also pointed out that several municipalities in the province that had gone through the process of a study and/or costing had greatly varying results, most negative.
"Smith's Falls," said Milroy, "recently terminate the proposal process because of 'future unknown costs'. This is remarkable because Smith's Fall is host to the Eastern Ontario OPP dispatch centre."
Among other communities that had rejected OPP policing are North Bay, Sarnia and Shelburne. Others that had gone to OPP found that policing costs, in fact, escalated dramatically with no improvement to service. Some, such as Pembroke have found that services such as response time and having a local presence had declined.
One of the points Milroy was most adamant about was the loss of autonomy moving to a provincial police service. "I am absolutely and unequivocally opposed to losing control of our policing. With our current board, we maintain the right to hire and fire staff, negotiate with staff, set priorities for policing within our community, direct special functions through the Chief, set policy and maintain a local presence. With OPP contracts, we would immediately lose all control of policing. Policy is set by the OPP and their officers are protected contractually to be the highest paid officers in the province ... and we would have no part in negotiations to set either officer or civilian salaries."
"We would become a 'patrol zone' ... where there would no longer be dedicated policing ... where virtually your only function is to pay the bill at the end of the year," he added. " Please consider the fact that 16 population-equivalent communities in Ontario stubbornly cling to the odd philosophy that they should control their own policing destiny, rather than allow outsiders to erode another critical part of local government."
Following Milroy, Greg Fletcher of the Saugeen
Shores Police Association pointed out that the undersized and
out-of-date police building and the choice of local policing versus OPP
were two separate and distinct issues.
He also pointed out that Chief Dan Rivett had been bringing to light the issues of concern for 10 years and the importance of maintaining the infrastructure of emergency services and to plan for the future.
"With Bruce Power expanding and retrofitting, this community will see a growth unlike anything that it has experienced before," said Fletcher. "All one has to do is to look around and see the new subdivisions that are being built and the new commercial buildings being erected on Goderich Street, to begin to understand the scope of the expansion that is coming."
The current building is undersized and poorly built and, therefore, renovations would be too expensive to be economically justifiable. "The only two feasible options would be a stand-alone building or one that could include EMS to offset the costs and operation. In addition, rent from the existing building or revenue from its sale could also come into focus," said Fletcher. "Also, no matter who is policing this community, there will need to be a new facility.
When it comes to local policing, Fletcher said that Saugeen Shores at $477 per household is, in fact, on the lower end of the average cost of policing in Ontario. "That's less that a cup of coffee a day to pay for having police officers respond to your door 24 hours a day, 365 days a years and, in an emergency, within minutes of placing a call."
In addition, all Ontario police must be trained to the same standard and local municipal police do, in fact, work closely with OPP officers.
"When it comes to costs," explained Fletcher, "the OPP work from a different formula based on properties and not households. For instance, with an apartment building, the Saugeen Shores model uses the building while the OPP uses the number of units and commercial buildings are the same. Therefore, for the same town, the OPP cost would be divided by a much higher number while the municipal number would be lower. Therefore, the costing figure is skewed to show the cost per property is lower when in reality the cost if the same.
He also pointed out that the highest expense for any police service is salaries and that each OPP salary is greater than local officers and the only way to reduce costs is to reduce the number of police officers. Saugeen Shores retains two police officers in each community (Port Elgin and Southampton) at all times so that response time is a matter of minutes. OPP refuse to divulge response times for any study.
Most importantly, Saugeen Shores Police officers are part of the community with a number of them having been raised in the community and who are now raising their own families.
"All members of the public are
encouraged to speak with our officers on the street and speak to
them about this or any other concerns they have," said Fletcher.
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Tuesday, December 13, 2016