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An Interview With Our Police Chief – Michael Osborne

An Interview With Our Police Chief – Michael Osborne

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Based on published monthly statistics, Midland Police Service is hardly a “Barney Fife” operation. On the contrary, the service is super pro-active; response times are well under five minutes for any “in progress” calls for help and the department is very cohesive under Police Chief Mike Osborne, a career policeman who took the helm in 2010 after the retirement of Chief Paul Hamelin. Recently we sat down with our Police Chief and he was candid in his comments concerning policing here at the Gateway to the 30,000 Islands.

It has been literally decades since this reporter covered a more frank interview here in the Town of Midland. One’s interview with Midland Police Chief Mike Osborne was up front from beginning to end. What you see is what to get when you meet the town’s chief constable.  A terrific family man and a top notch policeman he still finds time to volunteer with a number of groups in town.. His son is now a Barrie policeman and soon his daughter plans to get into the same business. That’s a tribute to their wonderful parents. Chief Osborne is an honest cop. He’s a skilled dedicated leader who loves Midland.  Our interview covered all bases and not once did he try to skirt around  a question. Following on the heels of Chiefs Bates, Hembruff and Hamelin, Chief Osborne exemplifies all that is good with pro-active community based policing in Midland. Before council turfs out our police force in lieu of OPP, town father’s would be wise to feel the pulse of taxpayers who want the police department to stay the way it is: community first.

Midland Police Chief Mike Osborne
Midland Police Chief Mike Osborne

Chief Osborne has been the Chief of the Midland Police Service since January 1, 2010 and has a diploma from Georgian College and a Degree from Guelph / Humber, he is the recipient of the Queens Diamond Jubilee and Exemplary Service Medals, he currently serves on many community Boards and has sat on many others in the past.  The Boys and Girls Club of North Simcoe, the Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Service, and New Path Child and Family Services are just a few examples.

In addition he has been a Vice-President of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, and is a Director with the Ontario Police Technology Information Cooperative ensuring quality records management for the majority of Ontario’s Municipal Police Departments and the OPP.   He has more than 28 years of policing service including 25 years with the Town of Midland.

The Chief is proud of the professional way that the women and men of the Midland police service carry out their daily duties.  Officers and Staff treat citizens in a respectful and compassionate manner and exhibit a strong work ethic.  Although we hear many horror stories of relationships between the police and the public, Chief Osborne advised that many of these examples come from the United States or much larger communities.  He stated that relationships are generally good in Canada and certainly are good in Midland.  Officers know community members personally, especially those in the greatest need for assistance.  This has helped officers resolve almost all issues without confrontation.  Although Midland officers have responded to over 8000 calls in 2015, and stopped at least 25,000 cars in traffic stops (including RIDE) and conducted 600 hours of RIDE programs, only 3 complaints were received.  All of these complaints, although taken seriously, were minor in nature.  There were only 6 uses of force during 2015.  Two of those were in relation to animals, 2 involved an officer displaying the Conducted Energy Weapon and not using it, 1 involved the use of the CEW (Tazer), and the last a physical interaction.

Chief Osborne was impressed that although wages for emergency services personnel have risen across Ontario, the Members of the Midland Police Service negotiated a salary that places them below the average, despite the fact that they each answer more calls for service than many police agencies.  Further, despite the increased complexity of crime and increased calls for service, the number of officers has been reduced to levels below those in the early 1990’s.  Officers continue to respond in a timely fashion, as evidenced by MPS’s 3 1/2 minute response time to emergency situations and the increase in traffic enforcement and patrol over historical trends.  Officers also continue to investigate matters thoroughly and professionally, but workloads have definitely increased.  Their efforts, coupled with the outsourcing of dispatch services, and the civilianization of jobs where permitted by legislation, have led to significant cost reductions that will fully come to fruition in 2018.

Despite calls for Service going up in the recent past, crime went down.  A call for service is created when a member of the public asks for police assistance or reports a crime, or an officer discovers someone committing a crime.  Despite the number of calls going up, and crime rates going up Provincially, the number of criminal offences in Midland went down.  Chief Osborne advised that the high number of calls for service is indicative of policing a small community where police are often the last resort for those in need.  He advised that strides are being taken to work even more closely with agencies that provide short and long-term housing, financial assistance, education, or aide in improving physical and mental health.  These challenges are the underlying causes of victimization and crime.  Addressing these social issues as quickly as possible will reduce the incidents that require police intervention.

Chief Osborne subscribes to the adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound cure.  Helping those in need obtain employment or financial assistance, ensuring citizens have access to physical and mental health assistance, proper housing, and education, are the greatest crime prevention measures we can take.

Overall Crime Severity Violent Crime Non-violent Crime
Province -26.9% -27.7% -26.5%
Midland -46.2% -30.2% -50.8%

In this analysis we see Midland’s crime severity far below the Provincial average, and from the graph above it has been on a steady decline in Midland since Chief Osborne has been at the helm.

It seems that he’s carried on and even improved on the hard work by former chief Paul Hamelin in keeping costs under control while pushing the service to do more with less over the years.

OPP costing

The Chief respects Midland Council for exploring options on behalf of Midland residents, just as they do with every aspect of their business.

From his standpoint he hopes that citizens obtain the information they need, specifically the costs and services levels of each option, and then relay their thoughts to their Council.  He stressed that this is a decision related to front-line policing services only.  Front-line policing is essentially the everyday work you would see a uniformed police service doing including patrols, community service, arrests, attending your residence in an emergency.  He stressed that this decision is NOT related to specialty services such as the helicopter, tactical units, marine units or dive teams.  These services are paid for with Provincial tax dollars and are free to all municipalities including Midland.

In MPS’s favour is the fact that they offer a dedicated service to the Town of Midland.  There are officers patrolling Midland streets 24 hours per day, ready to respond to an emergency when needed.  A Midland Police Services Board also closely scrutinizes the Service.  The Chief provides a detailed report to the Board every month on the activities of the police officers including traffic tickets issued, RIDE programs, Community Service, calls for service and more.  The Chief pointed out the upward trend in enforcement.  As an example, despite a reduction in officers the Service laid 2449 highway traffic act offence notices, compared to 1795 in 2010 and 1264 in 2007.  In addition, Midland Police have an on-line crime tool that allows citizens to view the types and generals locations of the crimes that are occurring in our town.

The Chief is most proud of MPS’ work ethic, professional and compassionate response to citizens, the recognition of the underlying causes of crime and victimization and their efforts to improve upon that.  The Chief proudly talks of the letters received from citizens and supporting agencies about the quality of work of Midland officers, the court security team and the front office staff.  Next would be their response times to life threatening situations.

Most of us may only call upon the police a few times in our lives for an emergency.  When we do, we hope police are there promptly.  MPS is responding to emergency situations in about 3 1/2 minutes, well within the five-minute response time set by Town Council for responding to emergencies in their Downtown Safety Plan.

In the days to come it will be telling to see how our Council and Police Services Board compares / contrasts the services quoted by the OPP and acknowledges the quality service that our community police provides now and has for more than a century, adapting to new technology and embracing community policing in efforts to keep response times short and proactive and preventative policing at the forefront of their mission.  Are we prepared to accept any decline in the level of service we enjoy to potentially save some money?  I suppose it all depends on what those service cuts look like versus the perceived or real savings that are offered in the short term under a 3 year contract.  We will continue to follow this very closely and report back to you.

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An Interview With Our Police Chief – Michael Osborne

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