UPDATED: In his latest “Community Update”, the MidlandCommunity.ca lobby group’s co-founder and outspoken leader dedicates his update to sharing his group’s official position about the decision before Midland Council to consider changing the policing model for our community.
Roy writes, on behalf of the MidlandCommunity.ca membership:
“Last week, on December 29th, Ian Burns of the Mirror wrote, “OPP Costing for Midland will take place in 2017”. The article goes on to say that, “in 2015, policing costs represented 27.5% of the municipal budget, up from 18% just 5 years ago”. Burns states, “the Midland Police Service recently signed a contract that will increase salaries for first-class constables by 7.2% in 2017.” While there may be a lot of numbers to digest, the bottom line is an OPP costing proposal should help us all clearly understand the value for money equation for police services in Midland.
Policing is an essential service that is important to our Town as it is to every community. Considering a bid from the OPP is a question of service levels and affordability. It is not a question of tradition or local pride or whether or not the Chief is a ‘great guy’. Still we will likely hear this kind of stuff trotted out in the months ahead, in many cases by those who have a direct financial interest in the outcome.
Most people will recognize that despite different uniforms and paint jobs on patrol cars, OPP and Midland Police officers have identical training and qualifications and both organizations do a very professional, capable job. Most people will agree we should not be afraid to consider the OPP as a policing alternative since they have lived and worked in this area alongside Midland’s finest for decades. And when the OPP successfully bids for policing in a city or town, most uniform officers are just directly transferred from the town police force to the OPP thus avoiding any loss of local knowledge and experience on the streets.
So if it’s not about the style of the uniform or the paint on the cruiser, or the qualifications and local knowledge of patrol officers then the discussion and subsequent decision quickly becomes a question of cost for comparable levels of service.
The attached chart shows police cost data contained in Financial Information Reports (FIRs) that are filed with the Province by every municipality in Ontario. These FIRs are publicly available on the Ontario Government website.
Fact: Midland police costs in 2015 ranked 2nd highest to Barrie in ‘cost per household’ when comparing all municipalities in Simcoe County.
Fact: Our neighbour Penetanguishene spends $498 per household on policing compared to $706 per household in Midland.
Fact: Midland has experienced very low growth requiring current taxpayers to shoulder the spiralling costs of policing with very little help from new growth.
Fact: The Midland Police Service did bid to expand its service to Penetanguishene several years ago but Penetanguishene could not see the value of doing so.
Midland Council takes public safety seriously and has wisely decided to hire a consultant experienced in analyzing OPP bids and local police costs to ensure that all cost and quality comparisons are reliable apples-to-apples comparisons.
The OPP bid document is expected sometime this month. That will be followed by the consultant’s objective analysis based not on fiction and fear but only on FACTS.
Happy New Year Midland and be sure to get the FACTS!
Roy Ellis on behalf of midlandcommunity.ca”
Ever-skeptical of Roy’s position on opinions that he and others in the group’s management purport to be “facts”, we did some checking of our own… the same kind of simple research that anyone could do, including them if they chose to do it.
Just yesterday, we shared news from Midland Police chief Mike Osborne’s blog where he responds to a question that asks about costs to disband the Midland Police should that become a reality. In addition, the chief speaks to the reasons why Penetang and Midland don’t pay the same for policing and the false/incorrect statistics quoted by our Mayor and published in the Midland Mirror in a story by Ian Burns.
It seems that our good mayor, may have gotten his numbers wrong or is simply confused, and this is concerning since he is part of the team that is deciding the future of policing based on “numbers”. I am not sure how he could be so far off on his percentages but the result can certainly be characterized as a way to polarize the public readership opinion – who many, by default, will simply believe what they read.
I made a few inquiries of contacts inside Midland Police service and wanted to learn more about the “facts” that Mr. Ellis has presented his readers.
Ironically what Roy missed, are some of the “facts”. The only thing Roy’s article has done is demonstrated he has a bias.
The fact that another town is more or less expensive to police than Midland in 2015 is an irrelevant “fact”. There are only three questions that seem to matter to people we have spoken to about policing matters,
1. What will each Police Service charge to Police Midland into the future (or for the next three years since that is all the OPP will quote), and
2. What services will each Police Service provide for the money?
3. What impact (if any) will an OPP contact have on response times if we opt for an “integrated” policing model (Midland is just another patrol zone sharing resources with Tiny, Tay, Penetanguishene and part of Georgian Bay Twps)
“In relation to Roy’s figures, you cannot remove the grants received for court security and at the same time leave the cost for court security in Midland’s budget estimate. Court security is the responsibility of the municipality and the Town has to pay it regardless of who polices the community. These costs need to be removed to make an apples-to-apples comparison.”
“It is also convenient that Roy selected 2015 as the year for comparison because he would know it was the highest budget year. However, he neglected to mention 2015 contained severance that were part of a long-term plan to reduce budget and that 2016 and 2017 were lower.”
As usual, don’t take my word for any of this. If you care about this topic, or any of the other major issues that Council is facing in 2017 (Midland Bay Landing scandal, selling off our MPUC, and the many other issues we cover here) we urge you to look into the “facts” that anyone lays out for your consideration – including OurMidland. We also urge you to reach out to your Mayor and council and ask for clarity and get involved in these decisions by attending public meetings and participating in the decision-making process.
As a taxpayer in Midland, this author wants the best services for the best price. If that turns out to be an OPP contract or a divested MPUC then so be it, but let those decisions be based on real facts and not mis-represented stats. Context is everything and I’ve found consistently that MidlandCommunity.ca has a history of providing half-truths, or numbers taken out of context and spun to support whatever argument they are making at the time. This latest publication continues to support that observation.
UPDATE: JAN 6 2017 1:05PM
In a follow-up blog post on the Midland Police website we see that the Chief has published some clarifications about this subject matter. We’ve reposted it below instead of having it automatically create a new story on our website. Keeping this story all together just seems to make more sense.
|As a follow-up to my previous blog post I wanted to provide some additional facts for consideration, and provide a more in-depth look at the “cost per household” chart that is circulating in our community (see attached)Firstly, I have always commended Council for entering the Costing process. I believe it was a good decision to investigate all options and this is the only way to do that. It is unfortunate that the process has been so delayed but we must roll with the punches.
Secondly, I maintain that the only information that matters is the comparative cost and service levels of OPP vs Midland Police Service, to police the Town of Midland.
The cost of Policing another community is irrelevant, because communities are very different. The OPP is going to quote Midland based on its needs and calls for Service only. Therefore, it is vital that we be patient and wait for that information before making any assumptions one way or the other.
It is important not to be distracted by other numbers as they may not be relevant or may omit information making them inaccurate for this purpose. The figures recently posted for “Police spending in Simcoe County” (see attached) indicate our budget is over 5.4 million and the cost per household is $706.
The chart was clearly not designed for the simple interpretation being applied to it and I have identified at least two problems with the figures.
Our budget for 2017 will be approximately 4,924,000 (including court costs and the partial offset grant). When using this figure, our cost per household drops to $632. This still seems high compared to Penetanguishene’s $498 per household. However, these figures are not a true cost per household because they ignore business taxes.
The real cost per household is lower for both communities
One of the reasons Midland is far more expensive to police than some communities are the calls for service generated by the many thriving businesses in our town. One big box store could generate 150 calls. However, these same businesses offset the cost of taxes per household.
I am told that Penetanguishene households pay 82.99% of the taxes, while Midland households only pay 70.18%, with businesses paying the rest. Applying these percentages would reduce Midlands 2017 cost per household to $443 and Penetanguishene’s 2015 number to $413. This would place our cost within 30 dollars per household.
Admittedly, Penetanguishene could lower their 2017 budget and there are some communities in the list like Midland with many businesses paying taxes.
The point is, you cannot use this simplistic cost per household chart that only analyzes one year in a vacuum, that ignores business taxes, that overlooks court security costs / grants, and that fails to recognize the significant differences between communities and their policing needs.
The only information that matters is the comparative cost and service levels of OPP vs Midland Police Service, to police the Town of Midland. Let’s be patient and let Council do their work.
Chief Mike Osborne