Saugeen Shores Police Chief addresses Men’s Probus Club

by Probarian Gord Eagles

Police Services Chief, Kevin Zettel recently spoke through Zoom to the Saugeen Shores Men’s Probus Club.

Zettel was appointed Chief on November 2, 2020. and gave a brief background of his career.

His family resided in Walkerton where he grew up, was married and where he was a member of the Walkerton Fire Department for 12 years.

He began his career in policing with the Guelph Police Service in 2002 and commuted to Guelph for his shifts. While he enjoyed his time with the Guelph Police Service he was contemplating a career move closer to his home and growing family. He has three children now 15, 18 and 20.

At the end of 2003, he transferred to the Saugeen Shores Police Service and was promoted to Uniform Patrol and Criminal Investigation in 2007 and then to Sergeant of that Division in 2010.

In 2018, he was promoted to Inspector in charge of Operations and, in January 2020, he was promoted to Deputy Chief in a restructuring process.

On November 18, 2020 at a formal swearing-in ceremony, Zettel was promoted to Chief of Saugeen Shores Police Service.

Chief Zettel then gave an overview of how the Police Service operates. He reports to and is accountable to the Police Services Board which is comprised of a Chairperson, Vice-Chair, Deputy Mayor (representative of council) and two other members from the public. A secretary records all minutes of meetings.

He said that the Secretary, Georgina Elliott, has held the position for many years and to acknowledge her service, a room in the new Police Headquarters has been dedicated to her.

The Chief then described the Boardโ€™s functions. The Board informs Council of police operations where and when required and he is accountable to the Police Services Board. Adequacy and effectiveness of Policing is governed by the Adequacy Standards. The Police Services Board has policies which direct the Chief to follow strict adequacy standards. These policies are currently being reviewed by former Chief, Dave Preston.

The Operating budget is prepared by the Chief and presented to the Police Services Board (PSB) that then reviews the budget line by line. When approved, the budget is then presented to Council for their approval as a whole, not by individual items.

The Chief has the authority to hire personnel with approval of the PSB (Police Services Board). Any reduction in size or abolishing a Police Service would have to be approved by the OCPC, the Ontario Provincial governing body.

The existing Police Service has 23 sworn officers. The provincial standard for policing is 1 officer per 560 persons. Saugeen Shores has 1 officer per 652 persons. In 2015, the population of Saugeen Shores was 12,661 with 21 officers. In 2020, the population has grown to 15,297 residents still with 23 officers. The service operates with four Sergeants with each having three constables assigned per shift.

The service also has civilian support members which is comprised of a Support Services Supervisor (office administrator), 2 support services members, 1 support services (level 1), 1 Special Constable, 4 part-time contract Special Constables, 5 Auxiliary Constables and 6 contract jail guards.

The Service is comprised of 13 departments which are covered by the existing officers who are cross-trained to perform several functions. The Canine unit has received basic training with further specialized training required with the Toronto Police Services but has been delayed due to Covid-19.

Chief Zettel said that the Service faces some major challenges with increased mental health calls, the rapid population growth which they are managing to keep pace with, the lack of attainable housing and homelessness, Covid-19 challenges and court challenges due to the complexity of cases. Firearms are also becoming more common on calls and in 2020, 37 firearms were seized. Fraud has become frequent and the Police Service will talk to groups to educate people on fraud prevention if requested. All calls received by individuals should be referred to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

The budget for 2021 contains a minimal increase in discretionary spending. The bulk of the operating budget (87.6%) is for wages and benefits with the majority of the increases deemed non-discretionary as they pertain to contract costs. The capital portion of the budget is for radio equipment only.

According to the Chief, Covid-19 has added to complexity of operations. Emergency planning is in place in preparation to provide adequate services with reduced staff in case of illness.

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