In our continued search for facts about policing in Midland, the rising costs of policing around the Province and to help the community to form their own opinions about the OPP costing process that has begun, we are routinely sent questions about this (and other topics) through our website contact forum. We go looking for answers and report them back here.
In MidlandCommunity.ca’s latest Council Update some residents have asked us to look into the following statement:
“Midland’s Police and Fire services cost Midland ratepayers $7.6 million per year. Penetanguishene pays only $2.6 million annually, $5 million less than Midland! That works out to about $460 per capita in Midland and $290 per capita in Penetanguishene. How can Midland, a town that should have greater “economies of scale” pay 58% more than neighbouring Penetanguishene, on a per capita basis?“
Seems like a perfectly good question to us, but sadly, we are skeptical about any numbers that are circulated by MidlandCommunity.ca, that being said, we won’t just arbitrarily dismiss their data, but we wanted to look into it further.
Although we are getting pretty good at sniffing out the spin, this statement was worthy of some research. We approached a resource that we have who works for the Midland Police but who is not authorized to go on the record at this time.
The response received to our question about the costs is printed below.
Midland Council is obtaining a quote from the Ontario Provincial Police. This will allow Council to compare the OPP costing formula to the current costs and services of the Midland Police Service and make an educated decision about the cost/benefit analysis of maintaining a local, community-based police service over outsourcing to contracted zone-based (integrated model) policing.
Comparisons to Penetanguishene and their invoice from the Province truly are of no value when talking about Midland’s potential to save money. The Town of Midland is more expensive to police than our neighbours because we are the hub for four communities. We have more vehicle traffic, bars, restaurants, big box and retail stores, social service agencies, factories, hotels, motels, as well as a movie theatre, the largest recreation centre, a hospital and emergency room, two high schools, a court-house… I could go on but you get the idea.
Each of these facilities create “calls for service” and also must be pro-actively patrolled since we don’t just sit around waiting for bad things to happen – we are expected to prevent “calls for service” in the first place though patrol, community services and intelligence gathering.
The OPP considers “calls for service” as well as the “unique challenges” of each community when setting their price – even within the new formula. I would invite you to read the OPP Costing Manual, and in particular the Billing Process located on page 28. http://opp.ca/index.php?lng=en&id=115&entryid=56e71d6e8f94ac5c3f31071b
Keep in mind that the facilities described above all pay taxes and offset the impact of policing costs to the individual homeowner. The days where we made the town of Midland millions of dollars in revenue from third-party criminal records checks are behind us, but we still bring in some decent cash that helps offset the budget. Our officers are also paid much less than their OPP counterparts and we shed our dispatchers for more savings.
I should also add that since outsourcing dispatch services to Owen Sound last year, the savings will be substantial. In addition, the number of “calls for service” are increasing now that we are dispatched by Owen Sound. Is it busier now? Not in comparison to other years. What is happening is that many other police services tend to consider activities such as community services, downtown core patrols, school events, prisoner escorts, requests for phone calls etc as recordable calls for services (with their own categories for statistics). Truthfully, they are. We have staff assigned and it is tracked accordingly – but we had different ways of tracking those calls before the outsourcing. In addition, our dispatchers used to field many walk-in inquiries, phone calls and advice/information issues that now have become “calls for service” since folks are simply re-directed to the phones on the wall in our lobby. This is a by-product of not having local dispatchers and is now part of our reality.
Midland is a busy Police Service… the community will be surprised by the numbers when these statistics come out at the public meetings that are part of the process. If we are to pay by the “call” then I don’t expect to find much savings but, as a local taxpayer, I don’t want to pay any more for policing than I have to – but I also don’t want to lose the full variety of local services offered by a community police solution whose sole focus is within the borders of the Town of Midland.
That being said, rather than speculating and publishing statistics and numbers that are only valid in a certain context (and those contexts are never part of the stories I read), or completely invalid, let’s wait for the Town to obtain the facts through the process so we all can accurately compare cost and service levels. I too respect Councils decision to request a costing, I respect the hard work undertaken by the OPP in providing a quote, I respect the process and I will respect whatever decision our community makes. After all, our motto is Community First.
Thanks for taking the time to ask the question.