As we follow the OPP costing process in Brockville Ontario, a community much like Midland, who’s costing exploration began before our community’s, we get some clairvoyance into what the process looks like, what the challenges are, what service levels look like and more importantly, what the costs are likely to be when we get our quote sometime this fall.
Brockville clearly set some framework for the costing request in that they wanted a “standalone” or direct replacement option for their local police service to see if any savings can be realized through economies of scale with the Provincial police. Right away, that framework became impossible for the OPP who state that they no longer offer “standalone” policing contracts, preferring instead a melting pot approach dubbed “integrated model” that sees the new community blended into their service delivery model for all the communities they serve – but still billed over and above that cost per household / business for call volumes and the “enhancements”.
As we have not been able to learn much about these “enhancements” or the costs associated with them, it has been a week of clarity as some of the haze clears around just what constitutes an enhancement that would now be billed over-and-above the base costs for policing. Not only are police escorts for special events and charity events going to cost now, but some events like yesterday’s law enforcement torch run for special olympics could be left completely un-escorted without notice.
In another telling article published by the Brockville Recorder, Ronald Zajac filed the following story that is very telling.
Enhancements’ key in OPP costing
By Ronald Zajac, Recorder and Times
“The Ontario Provincial Police is not offering Brockville a stand-alone detachment, but it will have to provide a police station. That was mayor David Henderson’s quick and preliminary assessment of an OPP costing discussion that is expected to start in earnest as early as next month.
“It’s safe to say, and I think probably everybody at the table would assume, that it would be a non-starter if we didn’t have a facility here,” Henderson said at Wednesday’s meeting of the OPP contact ad hoc committee.
“Correct,” Staff-Sgt. Liane Spong replied. “There would have to be a facility that they could operate from.”
But she also said the specifics of where officers in an integrated Leeds County detachment will be housed will be spelled out in the OPP’s proposal to Brockville, which is expected to be submitted to the city in October.
The OPP has already told the city it will not satisfy Brockville’s initial wish for a proposal on a stand-alone Brockville detachment. Rather, should it choose to switch from its current municipal police force to the OPP, it would be integrated into the Leeds County detachment.
As that OPP costing debate draws nearer, one word is likely to move to the top of the local lexicon: “Enhancements.”
That’s the OPP’s word for add-ons, or “enhanced services” such as additional civilian or uniformed staff, positions that “would be contracted for a specific, dedicated purpose.”
While most of the other services the OPP would provide in a contract would be billed to the city according to provincial formulas, enhanced services would be billed directly to the municipality.
Henderson expects the subject to be prominent once the proposal is in.
“When we have that meat on the table, there’s obviously a discussion about enhancements, what is included, what is extra,” said the mayor.
Spong encouraged the committee to let the OPP know at this stage what enhanced services Brockville might want.
That might prove a “challenge,” said Henderson, giving the example of a community services officer and what the OPP’s definition of community services might include.
“The question will be: In this package, is there a community services officer in there?” said the mayor.
Police chief Scott Fraser expanded on the community services question, outlining a series of things the Brockville Police Service currently does: overseeing students; the Movies in the Park feature; a civilian writing grant proposals at the Community Hub; and a “connections program” for kids suspended from school for five days or fewer.
“Would that be something that just the community safety people would pick up and run with?” asked the chief.
Community services are among the core services the OPP must provide, under the category of crime prevention, but the examples cited by Fraser would have to be dealt with in discussions between the police services board and the detachment commander, Spong replied.
“If those are things that become very important to your community, then that’s where that discussion happens operationally,” said Spong.
“We don’t get into that type of a minutia when it comes to what the contract is with the ministry, but those officers are available and then those discussions have to happen with the detachment commander.”
Under an OPP contract, the police services board does have some “legislative control” over the services delivered in a municipality, she added.
Insp. Brendan MacDonald, a former detachment commander in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, told the committee that detachment had three community safety officers who provided services similar to what Fraser mentioned.
Community safety officers have core functions required by the province, but there is “wiggle room” within which to address specific community concerns, said MacDonald.
Cec Drake, chairman of the advocacy group Citizens Offering Police Support (COPS), was glad to hear the OPP officials being accommodating on the matter of community services.
But Drake, who was part of a large COPS contingent in the council chamber audience, was less reassured by the longer discussion on the OPP’s new billing model.
“Overall, I felt that the cost formulas seemed not to be well understood and explained,” said Drake.
“The costs are going to be whatever the costs are because we have no control over the costs.”