Midland’s top cop, Chief of Police Michael Osborne’s blog has been the source of most of the facts we have shared about the comparison between the OPP and the local police option that Council is trying to compare and contrast. The OPP’s quote came in far higher than our local police costs and with reductions in services, many unknowns, as well as enormous start-up costs, extra billing for services we enjoy now and then there are millions in disbanding costs to shed the local police.
We’ve watched Roy Ellis and Steve Saltsman of MidlandCommunity.ca publish misleading article after misleading article as well a letters filled with false messages, slander on police staff and hyperbole in their clear and biased desire to see anyone police Midland other than the century old Midland Police Service. We’ve watched them do the very same for a wide variety of issues in the community and have been writing about this for years now.
It seems the Chief has had to take to the internet, once again, to clear up the latest round of fiction published by the group, clearly in an 11th hour attempt to sway opinions based on inflammatory language and fake perceptions that somehow Midland is being fleeced by the local police service.
The chief’s blog entry reads:
Dear Midland and Community Members:
I have been somewhat silent on the costing process because I want it to run its course without injecting any of my own biases. However, although I have no intention of trying to influence the decision, I am compelled to respond to allegations that are inaccurate or biased and written while we are in the middle of a costing process, and immediately before Counsel is pressed to make their decision.
I will attempt to provide the facts and indicate where independent facts can be found, and disclose when something is simply my opinion.
Before moving ahead, I would like to thank the OPP Costing Branch for their continued and unwavering professionalism during this process. It has been a pleasure to work alongside them to provide the information our Council needs to make their decision.
Disbandment / Severance Clauses:
Statements have been made regarding my severance clause that are misleading and untrue. The previous Police Services Board did not provide me a severance clause that was “unprecedented” as alleged. Unprecedented by definition, means it has never happened before, and would mean I have the only severance clause of this nature in the Province. I invite those that are interested to reach out to Police Services Boards / CAO’s or file an FOI request with similar municipalities to learn that this type of severance (sometimes greater) is common place. Based on my years of Service, it is also in line with the package recently given to our dispatchers. At the time I negotiated this section, the Police Board reviewed severance clauses from other police services.
Like the dispatchers, I negotiated a disbandment clause with the Police Services Board in good faith, long before the costing request was on the horizon. Unlike front-line police officers, Chiefs are not guaranteed employment, and if they are offered employment, they are not provided work in the same town, and unlike officers there is no agreement of rank or pay rates. Regardless, I have done everything in my power to ensure I never receive a severance. We have maintained a quality police service while implementing change that has led us to be cost effective; a fact clearly demonstrated during the costing process.
Costs avoided by going OPP:
Some have also made mention of potential costs that could be avoided if we went OPP. It is important to keep in mind that all costs are included in our current and past budgets and have not impacted our ability to be cost effective. Our budgets are posted on our website in our annual reports dating back many years. Issues such as arbitration and absenteeism, have not been problematic. Our collective agreement has not gone to arbitration in decades and I would challenge the notion that our sick leave occurrences are higher than our comparators in policing. Our dedicated men and women are reliable and come to work.
Some have suggested that the Town could save $70,000 if the Administration Office did not support the Midland Police Service. Although the Town provides some administrative support for the police, the police reciprocate including response to more than 380 by-law complaints in 2016 as one example. I have not been provided any evidence that staff levels could be reduced by $70k to acquire these savings.
Some Local Officers Want to go OPP:
The suggestion that some officers see the OPP as a better option is not surprising. Officers change Services every day in Ontario and in fact, I left another police agency because I believed Midland offered better opportunities, a chance to be closer to family, an increase in pay and a reduction in workload. The OPP is an excellent organization and I respect any officer that chooses to make a change for personal reasons. In the past I have written letters of recommendation for staff to assist them in their journey. However, this discussion should focus on what is best for the broader community and not individual officers, including me.
Our officers work hard and they should be rewarded with equal pay to their comparators. The costing process has demonstrated that we could increase our number of officers and still be cost competitive. Another officer would be a welcome addition to the Service and would reduce workloads while allowing us to tackle even more of the social issues that have become a greater part of our workload than criminal offences. The Town of Midland can enhance service levels at any time with our police service. Despite these comments, we already provide excellent policing to the community with the team we have in place.
Police Act Hearing:
Police Act hearings are a rare occurrence for us. The last real hearing was about 20 years ago. That said, I believe everyone agrees that the Police Services Act requires updating. I support changes that would lead to more timely resolutions and prohibit delays that have a negative impact on officers, their families, the Police Service and the Community. However, until such changes are enacted by government, we must work within the current system and its shortcomings. The comments made in a recent online publication appear to be based on a brief observation of one argument, in a very complex issue, and provide a biased opinion that does not examine the entire case.
Are officers stressed? Yes. Unfortunately, police officers are stressed everywhere. The ever-increasing expectations of police, the rapid pace of change, and the relentless, negative media coverage surrounding policing all play a factor; as does the costing process itself that has dragged on for several years. We must do more to alleviate stressors where we can, but this is not a phenomenon unique to Midland. I respect the Midland Police Association for trying to make life better for our Members and I will continue to work towards the same goal.
Letter to the Minister / “Pseudo” Invoice:
I recently wrote a letter to the Ministry, in response to a letter sent directly to me. Although I apologize for using the term “pseudo” if that offended anyone, I do not apologize for writing the letter because I did so out of concern for the citizens of Midland. I used the term pseudo to describe a “Statement of Activity” document that appeared like an invoice or potential invoice, but was not. The document provided no supporting details and very little explanation as to what purpose it served, or whether this was an implication that billing might occur in the future.
In addition to this document, we heard comments during the costing process that the OPP does not currently charge for provincial resources, but the door was left open for charging in the future.
In response to these pieces of information I wrote the letter to better understand the Minister’s position since only the Ministry can approve billing for provincial resources.
The Minister’s response will be vital for Midland to project future budgets. The document indicated Midland received $321,300 in assistance which would represent a 6.5% increase in budget if this was billed to us. I am aware that other Police Services and Police Boards have concerns and have also sent letters searching for answers.
We have an excellent working relationship with our policing partners and my letter asks for clarification, while voicing my support for the current system provided by the OPP. I have attached the information I received as well as my letter to the Minister. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call. I also invite you to read my blog article on Provincial Resources of the OPP, and point out that per capita every person in Ontario already pays $50.29 towards these valuable and effective Provincial Resources; per capita Midland pays $833,000 per year.
I have included a copy of the “pseudo invoice” along with my response letter to the Ministry below.
Chief of Police