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County’s OPP officers deserve respect and remuneration: Police board chair

People calling 911 for a police officer expect a quick response and a quick resolution to their problem but rarely consider, or fully understand, the costs involved.

Municipalities across the province, however, will be forced to face the financial truth head-on as the bill from the province for police services rises in 2014. Prince Edward County’s contract with the Ontario Provincial Police is expected to cost almost $5.5 million next year – an increase of about $424,000.

The key driver for the increase is an 8.5 per cent increase as part of the provincial government agreement for January 2011 to December 2014. The terms called for an increase of five per cent in 2011 followed by a two-year wage freeze and top-up commitment for 2014. By 2012, a first-class constable anywhere in the province will have a salary of $94,702 (from $87,240).

Policing costs are negotiated by the province. However, the OPP is in consultation to reform the method it uses to bill municipalities for services noting a broad understanding that the current system is not equitable among municipal governments. The initiative is scoped on how to bill, and will not address underlying service cost drivers.

At the same time, the Ontario Mayor’s Coalition on Affordable Sustainable Accountable Policing (ASAP) has also formed to control escalating costs. Prince Edward County, Quinte West and Belleville are members. The coalition states the issue is not about quality of services or what the police deserve, but purely about costs and sustainability.

Robert Quaiff, Police Services Board Chairman

Robert Quaiff, Police Services Board Chairman

“Police are not viewed by the public like firefighters are,” says Robert Quaiff, the County’s Police Services Board chairman. “Everybody loves firefighters. They see clearly what firefighters do and they don’t usually question the related costs. People don’t see a lot of the work police officers must do and therefore assume policing costs are too high.”

The County has 42 uniformed officers but the municipality only pays for 32 as seven are paid by the province, and two by the federal government. The arrangement for the 10 officers relates to the province covering costs of provincial services such as highways 33 and 49, and the Sandbanks Provincial Park.

“We are concerned we may lose some of the provincial officers when in the contract comes due in 2015,” says Quaiff, “because the highways were downloaded to the municipality years ago and the province will likely want to download the costs of policing as well.”

Moving to a stand-alone detachment, he says, is not a viable option and the OPP is almost always the least expensive policing option for a municipality. Quaiff expects the OPP will provide a case to retain the officers based on adequate and effective policing necessary for the County.

“End to end there is a lot of County to cover here. Even though the costs are rising, compared with other communities, they are pretty low. County residents pay $386 per household. Bancroft, for example, is set at $660.

“I think the OPP can provide a pretty sound case based on past numbers,” Quaiff said. “The municipality will have to look at negotiating for these officers. On average there are 8,000 calls per year in the County, plus overtime services as necessary. What people don’t understand about overtime is that often the costs cannot be controlled. For example, when a court room judge requests officers for court security, or any reason, nobody can question that.”

“On average, there are about 22 calls a day for five or six officers per shift. And again, for example, one domestic dispute call can take eight to 12 hours to process. That’s just regular policing and doesn’t include the officers and costs necessary when complicated cases come up, or as has been the past few years, attempted murder and murder cases.”

Quaiff is concerned the province might decide that lower-cost municipalities such as the County might end up paying more to offset costs in communities that are more expensive to police.

The OPP is not only responsible to provide police services to parts of Ontario that do not have muncipal police services but, in addition, is responsible for traffic safety on provincial roadways, waterways and trails. It also maintains investigative services to assist muncipal police services.

From what he has learned over the past 12 years serving on the police board, he concludes the officers in the County deserve both the respect and remuneration.

He recalls the tragic Dean Brown case where the 20-year-old was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend’s mother and sister and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

“Officers saved a woman’s life in that house on that day. More people should know that. There’s a lot of stories people should know but because of their nature, have to remain confidential.”

The OPP in the County, he said are also pro-active in developing community safety and well-being strategies that are anticipated to reduce calls for service.

“We have 28 officers who live in PEC. Almost all the officers are involved with community organizations like minor sports, assist in community events and attend school functions.

In this video, OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis states the issue is “complex” and “emotional” and that “municipalities are understandably looking for efficiencies” across all of the services they provide their taxpayers.

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. Doug Snedden says:

    When it comes to numbers, this either/or mentality by the OPP is not in sync with the economic stability of most municipalities in Ontario. Cash strapped municipalities are facing major funding issues with the Province and the cost of policing has now become a major issue with taxpayers.

    I think it would be in the best interest of most municipalities to look into the numbers, especially the calls for service the OPP answered, and their response times. You might be surprised at the results which may help you in negotiating with an out of sync provincial policing service.

  2. beach says:

    I check/monitor County Live on a regular bases. Of note, checking the OPP Reports indicate they have done nil report worthy activity since July 7 2013.
    I’m sure this is not correct so who does the PR /Update for the OPP Group for County Live????

  3. Seth Brindle says:

    Let’s do the simple math- $5.5M divided between 32 County-funded police is $171K/cop. Discount by support staff, overhead and rolling stock, and you’re looking at >$125K/cop/annum inclusive of pension and bennies.

    Assume ~70% of PSB budget is salaries. Simple inference? The OPP has gradually priced itself out of the County’s ability (willingness?) to pay. Quaiff is not entirely correct- either the OPP detachment complement is cut in 2015 or OPP police salaries are cut.

    And, as for “hard” policing, Trenton or Belleville send in the CID-level policing as required (eg., if a murder). So, PEC OPP essentially functions as B&E, domestic, HTA and impaired policing. This should properly become an election issue- “how much policing at current rates are hard-pressed County taxpayers prepared to pay?” Benchmarking against other equally-hardpressed Eastern Ontario municipalities is simply a fool’s errand at budget time.

  4. Dave Hill says:

    The night that Dean Brown committed his murders there where only 2 officers on duty for the entire county. Is this the adequate coverage we are paying for?
    Both officers attended the scene so what if there had been another problem elsewhere in the the County.
    We are not getting the 5 or 6 officers per shift it seems.
    We have given up asking for more radar patrols at Lake on the Mountain. With the traffic congestion at the park it is only a matter of time before there is a fatality from someone speeding through the area.

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