Here Is What We Know About The OPP Costing Process
Having learned that the city of Brockville is ahead of Midland in the OPP costing process, we have been following the process in their community and communicating with their citizen’s group and politicians. I can only hope and trust that our council is not trying to re-invent the wheel by avoiding learning from others in the very process for which they seem determined to fully engage… at significant expense to the Midland ratepayers.
We have spent considerable time learning about policing issues and the realities of what can now be offered by the OPP under the new, revised costing formula and model. If we can do this on a volunteer basis, in between our jobs and busy retirement schedules, and family responsibilities, we know that Council can too.
The whole concept of “saving money” (that came from a KPMG report) lead to Brockville asking for a cost from the OPP to “replace” their police service with the OPP. It has become a common theme as municipalities look for ways to drive down policing costs. That meant that many municipalities asked for what used to be called a “standalone” police contract where the OPP effectively replaced the existing police service and guaranteed officers to remain in the contracted jurisdiction and service the community first and foremost – at an increased cost over the “integrated model” where Brockville would simply be covered the by existing detachment and reduced to the status of a “zone” that gets no more – and hopefully no less – policing than the other “zones” that the local detachment serves. Whew… that was a long sentence.
In local vernacular, that is like where our Southern Georgian Bay OPP is responsible for Tiny Twp, Tay Twp, Penetanguishene and parts of Georgian Bay Twp, deploying resources as they see fit or as the circumstances require. This is not a replacement for a standalone police service whose sole responsibility lies within the municipal boundaries no matter if it is busy or quiet 24/7 365 days per year.
A “standalone” contract typically mimicked a dedicated local police service and allowed for community services officers, foot patrols, dedicated pro-active patrols and traffic enforcement and – not – just emergency response to calls for help with some extra time in town to meet the obligations of the monthly “full time equivalent” hours that each municipality is assured of receiving at a minimum. That was a reality back when Brockville and many other began looking to the OPP for savings over their existing police services.
Since the old costing formula was found to be completely unfair and allowed some municipalities to pay $20/household for the same “non-dedicated” policing as other communities that were paying $800/household (figures not exact but are not far off), something had to be done to level the playing field and more accurately reflect the true costs of delivering policing to all OPP communities in the Province. Policing, as we have learned, is expensive no matter which cop shows up at your door.
The new costing formula is no longer based on just households but also businesses and commercial operations. In addition, the “standalone” aka “full-time local” policing option has been taken off the table and the only option now is the “integrated” aka “you are just one of many zones they serve” model.
Drastic service level reductions are inevitable unless your local police service was under-delivering on local services.
By all accounts, and from our research, our local police service meets or exceeds every expectation we could have beyond basic core policing in that we get foot patrols downtown, RIDE programs almost every day if possible, a dedicated community service officer in our schools and at special events, patrols of our local shopping and recreation complexes and trails as well as parks on a routine (aka pro-active – not just when called to a complaint) basis and has the in-house expertise for forensic identification, technical accident investigations, scenes of crime officers, e-crimes (internet and cyber crime) as well as plain clothes drug officers and criminal investigations… We may have missed a few and am sure some of our more astute readers will remind us.
The last but certainly not least benefit to a local police service are response times which we have learned are between 3-5 minutes anywhere in Town for any incident that is “in progress”. So this means someone is breaking into your house while you are in your bedroom. You call 911 and the police get there in between 3-5 minutes. With an “integrated model”, the closest available officer could be in Sawlog Bay, Victoria Harbour or Woodland Beach? Unless of course you live near a coffee shop (could not resist). We have learned that OPP won’t disclose response times, so we have to do the mental math. How long would it take even if they were to speed with lights and sirens from that distance at night or during a busy traffic day?
In addition we have learned that the OPP have done or will do a building site inspection where they will identify deficiencies with the current police office and make a list for the Town to price out and bring the building into compliance before accepting it as a new location. It seems that the current OPP building is leased from a local landlord and no expansion is possible. The costs of bringing the current downtown building up to the provincial standard will be born by the local ratepayers. What we have not been able to determine is if there is a plan to move out of their leased building and into the downtown office which would serve the other communities they police. If so, will we be able to offset the costs of those renovations by billing our neighbours?
There is also the very real possibility, like in Orillia, where the current building will simply cost too much to retrofit and Midland will be told to build a new building for the OPP – at our expense. Happened in many other communities so this should come as no surprise. Will that expense be shared with our neighbours?
Now, let’s move on to the real showstopper.
We have learned, from the initial meeting and the OPP’s own “how costings work” handbook that the quote we will get will be for an “integrated model” on an “interim basis”. What that means is that the quote they provide is only guaranteed for 3 years. Nobody can predict what the costs will be beyond year 3. By then we will have a new council, likely a new Provincial government and we will have disbanded the local police on the strength of a three year quote with no option to opt out and start up a police service from scratch again. Nobody has done it. It is simply too expensive.
Let’s add to that fact that we likely won’t have broken even on the massive payouts in the form of pension “top-ups” to bring all the Midland Police officer’s pensions from the OMERS pension to the far richer Provincial Police pensions. Those are projected as being in the millions. Only a skilled actuary could make any sense of that calculation. Then there are the costs to pay off any employees not taken by the OPP (some substantial funds depending on how many and how many years they have worked for the town police) as well as some special buyouts for senior management which we have been told unofficially could be as high as another million dollars. When exactly are we to begin saving money again? Certainly not within the three years that the OPP quote is good for.
So to recap;
- we lose our local dedicated police service that we’ve had for more than a century.
- We lose a wide variety of dedicated services that we have grown accustomed to and expect as part of our safe community.
- We lose millions in buyouts and top up costs.
- We pay for retrofits or build a whole new detachment on Town land somewhere.
- We lose autonomy of a police services board that can actually direct the strategic policing goals, hire and negotiate the chief’s salary as well as negotiate the salaries of the whole police service (uniform and civilians alike).
- We lose full-time dedicated community police officers.
- We get our share of policing spread around with our large neighbouring municipalities
- We don’t get any new services that we don’t already have for free (paid for by our Provincial taxes) such as helicopters, bomb squads, marine units, police dogs, swat teams etc
- We sign a three-year deal without ANY assurances of what year four and beyond will look like
- We become a “zone” with no more (hopefully no less) policing than that enjoyed by Tiny, Tay, Penetanguishene and parts of Georgian Bay Townships
- No guaranteed response times to emergency calls – officers could be anywhere above depending on need or call volume
Others are struggling now, far deeper into the process than Midland is, who has only just begun. You only have to look online and read dozens of articles about unsustainable cost increases by the OPP and the sense of hopelessness by councils who have no say or control any more and simply have to pay the invoice provided to them.
Don’t take my word for this. Look into it for yourself. This is a HUGE decision, even bigger that the wholesale of our MPUC for what appears to be quick cash. You need to learn how this affects you, your property values, your taxes, your safety and what kind of police response you are prepared to pay as well as what services are you prepared to give up for yourself and your family.
It is hard to imagine that Council will spend $50k of our tax dollars to learn from a consultant what anyone with a phone, email and google can find out for free. The OPP is not a cheaper solution when compared against service levels. There is no cost certainty – which ironically is what begins the whole costing process in the first place. There will be service cuts for any savings. The disbanding of the local force will cost multi-millons of dollars. We can only sign a three year deal. We lose all autonomy and become further slaves to the Province.
In another candid article that appeared in Brockville’s Recorder.ca on Monday June 20th, they report the following progress, or lack thereof, in trying to get the OPP to quote them on the kind of policing they asked for when this whole affair began.
“Even if Brockville taxpayers wanted to foot the bill for a stand-alone Ontario Provincial Police detachment, the provincial force would not oblige.
Officials at the provincial force’s municipal policing bureau confirmed this Monday as Brockville’s OPP costing process resumed.
The OPP brass also explained Brockville police officers, should the city opt for an OPP contract, would join the Leeds County detachment and not be limited solely to Brockville’s boundaries.
“We don’t designate anyone as provincial or municipal,” said Staff Sgt. Liane Spong, of the force’s municipal policing bureau.
Rather, the city officers would become detachment cops and could be called out of the city on incidents, to be replaced, if need be, by Leeds officers.
“We look at it as an ebb and flow of what’s happening,” said Spong.
“It’s not a ‘here’s your line and you stay.’”
Still, the OPP officials assured, there would always be front-line officers within the city and Brockville would likely become a zone on its own within Leeds.
City council’s OPP contact ad hoc committee met Monday afternoon and evening after a hiatus of more than three months.
Spectators packed the main council chamber, including members of the advocacy group Citizens Offering Police Support (COPS), which supports maintaining the municipal police force, and both off-duty and uniformed city police officers.
The committee was formed to deal with OPP officials as they formulate a cost analysis of a possible switch from the Brockville Police Service to an OPP service contract.
“We are getting into the nitty-gritty work of developing a proposal,” said Spong.
“We’re crunching numbers.”
While she would not commit to a date, Spong said that proposal will likely land on council’s table “over the next couple of months.”
Mayor David Henderson first started the process of requesting the OPP costing in October 2012. The OPP imposed a moratorium on costings in the fall of 2013, as the provincial force reviewed its system for billing municipalities. The province lifted that moratorium last November.
Brockville is currently one of four municipalities in the “first group” to see their costings resumed, said Sgt. Gilbert Cadieux, of the municipal policing bureau.
The others are Deep River, Orangeville and Midland.
Before the moratorium, there was talk of Brockville being given two costing options: One for a stand-alone detachment covering the city alone and another for an integrated detachment with Leeds.
The OPP officials now say the stand-alone model is no longer on the table, as it would not be cost-effective.
“If we were paying for it, why wouldn’t you cost it?” asked councillor Jason Baker.
“It just isn’t a large enough police service for us,” replied Spong, adding setting a precedent would cause problems down the line for the OPP.
City manager Bob Casselman also provided an update on a complaint to the Ontario Ombudsman’s office about the previous contact committee meeting, held on March 7, being behind closed doors.
COPS filed the complaint, arguing the closed-door session did not comply with open meeting rules in the Municipal Act.
The Ombudsman’s office has completed a preliminary report, expected to be circulated to councillors and committee members in the next week or so, said Casselman.
They will have a chance to comment on it before the Ombudsman’s office files its final report.
Henderson noted that, once the preliminary report is in, members won’t be allowed to discuss it with the public until the Ombudsman makes the final report public.
“Even though it’s being circulated, we are sworn to secrecy,” said the mayor. “That’s their process.”