Saugeen Shores Police Service impacted by community growth

Saugeen Shores is set to head into round two of budget talks today, February 7th (2023).

Day one of the budget discussions included Saugeen Shores Police Services with a presentation by Police Chief Kevin Zettel.

With By-law enforcement having been discussed previously at length in budget talks, Chief Zettel said he would like to see the addition of an additional officer.  “This would mean five officers per platoon so that, when there are five offices on a platoon, we could provide a dedicated officer for By-law enforcement, such as beach patrol which is part of Problem Oriented Policing (POP).”

When it comes Police Services, there are five core services: crime prevention, law enforcement, assistance to victims of crime, public order maintenance and emergency response.

The Chief pointed out that when it comes to Problem Oriented Policing (POP), many partnerships are involved including:

  • KIDS School Program (Knowledge, Issues, Decisions, Support)
  • Crime Stoppers
  • MMHART (Mobile Mental Health Addiction Response Team
  • Problem Oriented Policing
  • 211 Program
  • Benevolence Fund
  • Teen Driver Safety Week
  • Positive Ticketing Campaign
  • Vulnerable Person Registry
  • RIDE Programs
  • Community Watch
  • Special Olympics

“We have very dedicated officers trained in a variety of areas including eight intoxylizer technicians, five scenes of crime, two use-of-force trainers, two school resource officers, two drug recognition evaluation officers, eight sexual assault investigators, four officers trained in offences against children, 12 warrant writers, one K9 officer and two media officers,” Chief Zettel pointed out.

He pointed out that with the increase in population, there is an increase in demand for services which inflates the budget.  “We need to keep up and with the addition of an officer this year in September, the addition of a full-time special constable, digital evidence management and, hopefully, a bicycle patrol unit, the budget will be impacted.  We are looking at having one or two officers trained on bicycle patrol and the bikes are being donated so there’s no cost there.”

“When it comes to capital, we will also need breath-testing equipment as ours is obsolete after this year and the purchase of two carbine rifles and mounting hardware which are required for each vehicle,” he added. “It is a regulatory requirement for emergency response and we currently have six vehicles but only four carbines.”

The overall operating budget is an increase of seven per cent (7%) primarily attributed to wages and benefits, with over half of the increase going toward the additional officer.

“Calls for service have gone up. We were over 11,000 last year with more than 3,000 charges,” said Zettel.  “We are a very busy service.”

Councillor Bud Halpin raised whether it would be “… cheaper to have another By-law officer as opposed to another police officer.  I also want to point out the value of Problem Orienting Policing and what it contributes.  As a former teacher and seeing the interaction of the police with high school students and having an officer coach football, it was very valuable.”

“The cost of having a dedicated By-law office would be cheaper than having a police officer,” admitted Zettel, “however, we are hoping that having the depth in our police service which we will require anyway, we will also be able to provide By-law enforcement with this budget.”

Mayor Luke Charbonneau added that, “Between the operating budget of $4,822M plus $115,000 for another By-law officer, it is the single largest line item in our budget.  We need to maintain our budget on law enforcement and the way to do that is to fill the police complement with capacity as we are growing anyway. It’s a great service and we certainly want to maintain it.  We are paying plenty for law enforcement and, as part of that cost, we should get By-law enforcement.”

“When I started we had 22-23 on the force ,” added the Chief, “which was four on a platoon, but we are growing and responding so fast and we want to provide proactive policing and this addition will bring us up to 26. In discussions with our Police Services Board in the Fall, when we created the three-year strategic plan, part was to provide Problem Oriented Policing because, with a service our size, we cannot afford to have our members be a dedicated action or entry team.  We need to have them be able to respond to different situations and part of the POP initiative will be to pick items in consultation with Council and the public and to present quarterly reports to Council see the problems that are going on in the community and adjust accordingly.”

“Right now we have hundreds in the community who are released regularly by the courts,” he added. “Part of the POP could be a dedicated officer to track down these offenders and that’s difficult to do when you’re continually responding to calls.

Part of POP is not just enforcement however, it’s working with the town and being actively involved with the community.”

Deputy Mayor Diane Huber pointed out that the ‘Vulnerable Persons Program’ that collects personal information proactively is also valuable.

“That program has allowed us to find someone very quickly as we have their personal information on file and it has paid off in dividends,” said the Chief.

Councillor John Divinski added that any cuts to either police or fire services should be “… carefully considered … these are two budgets that need close study … they are out there 24/7 and spell safety for each and every resident of Saugeen Shores.”

Mayor Luke Charbonneau pointed out that the Police Services Board has authority over the policy service when it comes to line items.  Council can either approve or refuse the budget as presented.  I’m prepared to support the budget as is.  We need to understand what sort of planning between the police and CAO.  We need to clarify the working relationship between the police services and the municipality so we can plan for the types of supports we provide to the police service such as human resources, iT (and others).  I think it works very well with the municipality providing those supports to our police service but we need to understand what sort of planning we need to do. It’s a unique relationship as the Police Services Board is an independent board but is one that has a tight relationship with the municipality that requires coordination that we haven’t had in the past.  I think it’s important we have a shared services agreement so we can set ourselves up for future success as our leaders and Councils change.  I’d really like to see that in the business plans of the Police Services and the CAO.  ”

For Discussion:  ‘The working relationship between the Municipality and the Police will be addressed in 2023 through a shared services agreement. This agreement will involve creating a Memorandum of Understanding pertaining to sharing Town and police service resources which may include, however not limited to, human resources, fleet management, by-law enforcement, payroll, health & safety. The memorandum will be drafted in cooperation with Town Directors and Police Staff and will be brought forward to Town Council and the Police Services Board for approval.’