Question From R.E I am trying to keep abreast of this whole policing debate and while I wholeheartedly appreciate having our own dedicated police force whose role is to serve us exclusively, I too am interested in the cost comparisons between keeping our police or contracting that role out to the OPP as many other small communities have done. While I am sensitive to the fact that many of those communities are still faced with heavy tax loads to sustain the OPP policing cost increases, and there is plenty of media coverage about those struggles, I read our local media with some degree of skepticism.
In an article posted on Simcoe.com (our former Midland Mirror) on December 27th, they quote some alarming increases to the percentage of the police portion of our tax levy for 2015 and over the previous five years. They also quote a 7.2% pay increase for your constables. In my understanding of our local public safety affairs, a move was made to contract-out police dispatch services and several local jobs were lost in the process. How is it that costs continue to soar despite this “cost-saving” measure?
I also read online that the province of Ontario awarded a rather rich increase to the Provincial Police officers somewhere around the 8% mark. How do these increases impact the cost of policing or the anticipated cost of policing when the quote comes in this January?
I also see that Mayor Gordon McKay has been quoted by the Mirror as saying that “cost is not the only driver in the process” and that “we have to make sure we maintain the quality of service” and that “people have an expectation that, when they pick up the phone to call police, they get a response”. Is there any real chance that under an OPP arrangement that police would not respond when called? I continue to be confused by strange assertions like these and am not sure that such simplistic criteria should be part of the narrative when comparing services and costs.
Lastly, what are the anticipated costs of disbanding the Midland Police should the OPP be contracted to assume policing our community? Do those costs include a new facility for the OPP or would they simply move into your building?
I am concerned that the Mirror has been so vague in their coverage and seems to fail to ask the simple but poignant questions in their quest to keep us informed and have turned to writing you directly to get some of the answers to these questions that the paper seems to never ask.
Thank you for your time.
- full name withheld at the request of the submitter
Thank you for your questions and your interest in policing.
Let me reiterate that I respect Midland Councils decision to request a costing from the Ontario Provincial Police. It is important to know whether or not Midland residents can receive the police response they desire at a lesser cost.
Let me also say that I am not prepared to comment on whether or not the OPP will be cheaper, or how they will respond to calls for service. The Costing will arrive soon and we will be able to analyze their estimate and service delivery model at that time. I will however comment on our service and what we do, and the article.
I would like to first acknowledge that policing is expensive and makes up a sizeable portion of the municipal budget. Policing requires a significant number of personnel to operate around the clock. Consider that some town departments work Monday to Friday, 8 am to 4 pm while police services must work seven days a week, 24 hours per day. We are required to provide staffing 4.2 times as many hours as a M-F, 8-4 operation, plus cover statutory holidays. Staffing costs will be higher in policing than some other departments. Our budget also includes the cost to operate the courthouse.
In addition, despite the fact that crime in Midland has been significantly reduced (Crime severity is down more than 46% over several years ago) the non-criminal calls for assistance are rising. Our calls are as high as ever at close to 8500 calls per year and this does not include 2600 traffic stops, foot patrol, RIDE programs, and many of the community events we attend. Our calls are often more complex and time consuming than in previous years. The following article speaks to these challenges. http://globalnews.ca/news/2607965/crime-rates-are-falling-so-why-has-canada-had-the-same-number-of-police-officers-for-years
Midland is also the hub of the area and per capita we are as busy as many large cities, this workload requires personnel.
In response to the article, 2015 was a higher than normal year for the Midland Police Service. However, 2015 was part of a long-term strategy to reduce overall costs. The outcome has been a reduction in budget; 2016’s budget was 2.7% lower than 2015, and 2017 will be approximately 2.5% lower than 2016. The article did not recognize this was a transition year and also erred in stating that the police services portion of the Town’s budget was 9.5% lower five years ago. Although the articles states the police service made up just 18% of the Towns budget five years ago, based on information I received from the Town of Midland treasury department, it was actually 24%.
In relation to the wage increase received by our officers, I will only say that our officers have regularly accepted less than the wages paid to many of their policing counterparts. One can easily check the wage of a 1st class constable in Midland and compare it to any other police service to confirm this. The wage increase they received was a result of precedence set across the Province.
In relation to quality of service, Midland is a community with significant social challenges and our officers perform at a very high level. We provide rapid response, we conduct a high level of enforcement, we are actively involved in our community and our schools, we receive very few complaints about our officers, there are very few uses of force, and our Members are sensitive to the challenges faced by youth, the elderly and those with a mental illnesses or addictions. Despite an increase in social disorder calls, our crime rates are down by more than 46%.
In answer to your question about costs to change police services, there are costs associated to disbanding. There will be severance costs, and there is the potential that the OPP will require a new building. These details will be clear when the Town receives the OPP’s cost estimate but I do know that communities like Pembroke saved considerably going OPP and used a portion of the savings they received to pay for a new building at a rate of 335 k per year for 30 years. However, I also know that despite having a slightly higher population, Midland has fewer officers than Pembroke had when they disbanded and there may be fewer savings to be had.
Once again, we will not know any of the answers until we receive the Costing from the OPP.
I thank everyone for their patience while we wait for the cost estimates, and move forward with the process.