As Midland Council wades into the “who can police Midland cheaper” exercise, we don’t need to spend the $75,000 they put aside for a consultant to learn from our neighbouring municipalities.
Just ask Tiny Township how it feels about the new OPP Costing Model which saw their 2016 policing costs rise 40% in one year. That is almost 1/2 million more for absolutely no service gains. They enjoy the same basic policing model and get a $500,ooo rise in costs in one year alone? And Midland is looking to the OPP as a way to SAVE MONEY?
One does not have to spend much time “googling” to find a common theme of anger and disappointment by communities all over the Province at the new police costing model that was put in place in January to make OPP contract policing “more equitable”.
Although the following source seems dedicated to grinding axes with the OPP in general, this link contains a list of media sources of OPP costing angst that cannot be ignored.
It is not long ago that Penetanguishene chose the OPP and then began a mayor’s revolt over the costs that rose before the ink was even dry on the contract. Then, when faced with renewing, they asked for Midland to propose a shared police model and then scuttled that project under dubious circumstances only to be rewarded by a cost decrease by the OPP to keep the contract.
The premise of seeking a cheaper solution in the OPP over their own local police service makes as much sense as asking Mercedez-Benz to quote on replacement town fleet vehicles. The OPP is contractually obligated by their police union to be the highest paid police officers in the Province. Looking to abandon a local police service that seems to be running well and serving the community is a fool’s errand when you look at the costs of shutting down the operation, paying off the employees with severance and termination bonuses as well as the costs of building a new detachment in Town to house the OPP and other costs that will come out in the exercise.
Nobody wants to pay more than they have to for an essential service, but where is the evidence supporting the argument that we are overpaying now?
We have learned that Midland Police officers are paid somewhere near 7% lower their peers in similar sized municipalities and that they have consistently fallen far behind over the past few years. Considering the fact that they are one of the lowest paid police officers in the entire Province, we could be faced with a mass exodus to higher paying jobs anywhere else and only attracting those officers willing to work for one of the lowest wages and benefit packages available. Is that the kind of talent we want serving us?
It cannot be the “sunshine list” argument since hundreds, if not thousands of OPP officers are on that list while it seems that four or five local officers are.
It cannot be the “get more services with the OPP” argument since any services that the OPP offers as specialities are available to municipalities NOT policed by OPP for no extra charge (paid for in our Provincial taxes even when not used locally).
It cannot be the “you get better quality policing by the OPP” argument since neither Midland’s Chief of Police or the OPP Commissioner will support that concept since their officers are all trained at the same location and have to meet the exacts same standards and qualifications year after year.
It cannot be that “OPP is a cheaper policing solution” since it is clear from communities who have made the switch before the “new and improved” costing formula are still complaining bitterly about rising policing costs with no recourse.
So, the only real reason for Midland to look at change seems to be for change itself. Why are we spending $75,000 to get a consultant to tell us what we already know or aught to know simply by using Google and talking to other municipalities around the Province… or next door.
There is nothing wrong with OPP policing. Equally, there is nothing wrong with community-based policing. Both are expensive and the real costs are primarily wages and benefits of the police officers and support staff, and they all have appreciably the same training, expertise and wages across the Province (with minor variations based on contracts and location).
Unless our police service is broken, defective, not meeting our needs or running inefficiently with inexplicable costs and out of control spending (none of which seems to be the case when comparing them to other communities our size) then why are we spending the time, effort and money to learn what we already know and to pay someone else to tell us the value of something we already have?
Paying for expensive but non-optional services like police, fire, ambulance and health care which are mostly beyond our control are all necessary evils in today’s society and having excellence in those services may mean the difference between people choosing to live here or elsewhere.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Policing is expensive in Midland and in any community policed by the OPP or any other municipal or regional police service. Nobody is getting a deal and nobody’s police bill is ever low enough. It’s that emergency service that we hope to never have to use and when we do, we want every available resource put into action to help us. That luxury comes at a cost and is part of the civilized world. Midland has enjoyed community policing for more than a century and there is little evidence to suggest that we will be better off by fixing something that isn’t broken.
Maybe now would be the time for Tiny Township to explore a joint police service with Midland? Midland could use the funds and an existing police service could likely extend itself to cover Tiny’s policing needs without much difficulty.
Perhaps Tiny Township should contact our Council and ask for a police costing and consider the efficiencies and savings that we are already helping Penetanguishene to achieve with joint fire, building inspection, transit and more? The “power of four” does not need to exclude public safety, especially when it seems to account for such a large part of our collective budgets.