Cost of policing on Island under debate by police advisory board

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

MANITOULIN—While most Manitoulin municipalities will see an increase in policing costs this year, (the largest case is 23.4 percent over the past two years) three municipalities will actually see a decrease. However, the biggest reason for any increase is due to workload or calls for service being made in a particular municipality, says Manitoulin OPP Staff Sergeant Kevin Webb.

“We’re going to continue to do the things that are proactive and don’t cost the municipalities for policing services to in turn help to decrease the cost of policing for municipalities,” Sergeant Webb told the Recorder after a recent meeting. “At the end of the day we are spending more time policing in some municipalities because of the workload (incidents) analysis-formula based on calls for service. In terms of those (municipalities) who are paying a greater percentage of the costs, this is because of the larger calls for service in their area.”

“My goal is to continue to take proactive steps to address issues in communities to reduce crime, with such things as officers on foot patrols, and the RIDE program (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) to help curtail incidents,” said Mr. Webb. “My goal is for there to be less break and enters, traffic incidents, and assaults and violent crimes, which lead to increased policing costs.”

“By concentrating on the proactive elements to policing to reduce incidents, it will provide better averages for all area municipalities in terms of calls for service or reactive calls,” said Sergeant Webb. “If we have to spend less time on calls for service in a particular community, at the end of the year when a municipality receives its bill they will not only see a decrease in costs they may see a rebate.”

This issue was raised at a previous Community Policing Advisory Committee meeting, in which CPAC Chair Bruce Wood advised that the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands (of which he is a councillor) had incurred a substantial increase in policing cost for this year. However, after a Northeast Town council meeting, he told the Recorder “at our meeting our CEC committee had (in NEMI) found out that our policing costs have actually gone up more, to 23.4 percent (to a projected $877,228 this year). We had been looking at a zero percent increase in our budget, but because of the policing costs increase and DSB (District Services Board) costs other things like infrastructure budgets will fall behind. We are looking at a budget increase of about six percent, 5.93 percent made up of policing and DSB costs, that we can’t control.”

“I know concerns have been raised at council as to whether there are too many (OPP) officers working on the Island, it is nice to have the officers presence and programs like RIDE, but can we afford these costs?” posed Mr. Wood. “There is a fine line between what municipalities can afford and providing these services.”

At the most recent CPAC meeting, Sergeant Webb provided a cost analysis-formual for community policing.

He explained OPP detachments are classified as either area or linear; area detachments provide both provincial and municipal policing services over a defined geographical area. The deployment model takes into consideration the total area, in square kilometres, policed by the area detachment.

Policing in Ontario is governed by the Ontario Police Adequacy Standards which define core police activities. These standards are enshrined in provincial legislation under section (2) of the Police Services Act (PSA) which states that adequate and effective police services must include, at a minimum, all of the following police services: crime prevention, law enforcement, victim assistance, public order maintenance and emergency response.

Under the model, to determine the number of constables required to respond to calls for service the deployment model considers five parameters, said Sergeant Webb. These include detachment characteristics, officer availability factor, calls for service/response standard, policing standards, and patrol standards.

“The Island is assessed (by the province) as four detachments, with 10 municipalities, and they have a process to crunch numbers for a staffing model for an area in comparison to the provincial averages,” said Sergeant Webb. “They look at the detachment as a whole, assess, for instance, the number of calls for service in a municipality for such things as criminal and traffic investigations, missing persons and sudden deaths and compare it to provincial averages.” He pointed out foot patrol, speed radar patrols and RIDE programs carried out in a community does not affect the amount of policing costs they have.

There is a provincial component as well: how much time officers spend to patrol highways and unorganized townships and if officers are called to work off-Island, explained SergeantWebb. The Island policing costs are then split into 10 bills (for each municipality), with one portion provincial policing (which the municipalities are not charged for). “For instance under the formula, less than half of my wages and benefits (the same with other OPP officers-constables) are billed to the municipalities,” he stated.

For the OPP budget for Manitoulin and other areas of the province, 85 percent is made up of wages and benefits for officers as well as other full-time OPP staff and administration, the meeting was told.

What the province does is look at each detachment characteristic, availability factor, calls for service/response standard, policing standards and patrol standards.

“In looking at costing of manpower and calls in an area, they (province) base it on provincial averages to determine the formula for a detachment,” said Sergeant Webb. Where the costs garnered for calls for service focus mostly on criminal and traffic charges, “for programs that are proactive such as the foot patrols and RIDE checks, there are no costs to the community for us running these programs in their municipality.”

“So for instance if a council says it doesn’t want to see officer foot patrols in their community, to save costs, this is not the case, this type of program does not cost the municipality,” continued Sergeant Webb. “Again for example, the RIDE program doesn’t factor into the cost of policing, but if there is someone charged with impaired driving and we have to apprehend them, there is a cost associated to this, as there is with for example sudden death investigations, assaults, and other emergency calls.” The province “take calls for service and the provincial average and multiply the detachment hours equals what is charged for policing.”

“Another factor is officer safety—looking at two members doubling up-working together in response to an emergency,” continued Sergeant Webb. “If we have to respond, for instance, to an emergency, it is policy two members have to respond together, but in saying that this is not always the case, especially during the day. We have two on from 10 at night until 6 am when it is historically the most dangerous for criminal incidents occurring.” Manpower is manipulated to meet the needs of a particular area.

As well there are policing costs for dispatchers, managers, snowplowing, fuel for police cruisers and the like, added the sergeant. Administrative staff and costs are also divided up among the municipalities. “If we have to bring in off-Island officers in a case, such as a missing person, it doesn’t cost the municipalities on the Island for this. And, if we have an officer who has been called into service off-Island that is subtracted from your year-end policing costs. Everything is based on municipality-provincially based percentages.”

As to a discussion on our increase in policing, the current formula was established in 2003,” Sergeant Webb told the meeting. “The cost formula was last updated in 2008 and has now been brought up to 2010. Everything has increased, and a good example of this is in fuel costs. Every time there is an increase of one cent in fuel costs, it means a substantial cost.”

The increase in wages-benefits to officers is 3.7 percent, with a 4.9 percent annual increase, the meeting was told.

Brian Parker asked how the formula for hours-manpower is developed for Manitoulin. “What this is based on is a full-time equivalent, what part of the job you are providing services to the province and what is attributed to the municipalities,” said Sergeant Webb. “So for me, as an example, .49 percent of my wage is divided among the municipalities with the rest going towards provincial costs.” He pointed out for officers, a set of strict guidelines have been put in place for officers accruing any overtime costs.

“There are some concerns with policing costs out there, understandably, and for some municipalities there are increases although not for every community, and it is based on last years numbers and actuals at the end of the year,” he explained.

Wes Bentley questioned whether OPP staff complements are status quo or added to each year.

Sergeant Webb said, “periodically, staffing models are looked at every five years, but usually there is not much change, we are down one officer from last year.” He said with additional equipment being requested, like an all-terrain vehicle, officers would be able to patrol areas like Carters Bay more frequently and said that one of his priorities for this year is beefed up marina patrols.

Mr. Parker questioned if the province has made any mention of policing costs being uploaded from municipalities, however, the sergeant said, “I don’t see this happening.”

“What I am hearing tonight is there is not a lot of input you can provide on your level of staffing, or on wages, it is not the local detachment that sets this formula, it is done provincially,” said Mr. Bentley.

One of the major things to reduce costs is putting in proactive programs that reduce occurrences, and in turn costs, said Mr. Webb.

The Recorder did not get all the figures from all Island municipalities as to policing costs this year, except for Billings which is going up less than two percent, Cockburn Island, which is being hit with a marginal increase, Gore Bay with an increase of three percent, Gordon/Barrie Island from $81,000 to $83,000, and about a 1.5 percent increase for Central Manitoulin.

For the township of Burpee-Mills, councillor Wayne Bailey, who is also an alternate representative on the CPAC committee for the municipality said, “we are being charged less than last year so are policing costs have actually gone down.”

However, Mr. Bailey provided a different perspective on the costs of policing. “We have been told the salaries through the OPP based service are always higher than other type of policing units in Ontario. For rural communities like Manitoulin Island who can least afford it, we are stuck with the highest policing costs in Ontario I think is a bit unfair.”