Municipal Association voices concerns with increased policing costs

MINDEMOYA—The increase in costs to municipalities for policing is not under the control of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), members of the Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) were told at a meeting last week with OPP officials.

“The province negotiates with the OPP Officers’ Association, so the OPP ourselves do not have any control over the salaries that our officers receive,” Carlo Berardi, sergeant with the municipal policing bureau of the OPP, explained at a meeting he and Manitoulin OPP Staff Sergeant Detachment Commander Kevin Webb attended with the MMA.

“Is it reasonable to say there are now more officers in Ontario now than in the past say 10 years to do things like work on terrorism control,” asked Paul Skippen, a Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands (NEMI) councillor.

“The number of OPP officers under full-time equivalent capacity hasn’t grown,” said Mr. Berardi. “We are getting bigger in terms of numbers of officers because of our amalgamation with several municipal police services. Municipalities are looking at this because we are less expensive and because of these amalgamations we have increased by a total of 20 officers.”

“The OPP must be less expensive than municipal police services,” said Mr. Skippen.

“We’ve come out very favourably in terms of costs compared to municipalities having their own police services,” acknowledged Mr. Berardi. “And all your municipalities are sharing the costs of the policing services we provide through the Manitoulin OPP detachment.”

Ken Noland, chair of the MMA, told the OPP representatives, “we just received a letter from the OPP indicating the costs of policing is going to go up 8.55 percent, so a constable’s salary, for example, will be $94,702.”

“We tried to be transparent by bringing these cost increases forward,” said Mr. Berardi.

“Is this wage increase the base cost?” asked Mr. Noland.

“It is the base cost, provincial crime unit guys in emergency response get another two percent more in wages,” said Mr. Berardi. And these salaries are before benefits, he said.

Mr. Berardi explained, “all your municipalities on the Island are policed by the OPP and if your share of the costs are 10 percent of the total of 100 percent for police services on the Island, this is what your share will be of each of the officers salary. Everyone is under the same policing apportionment and based on occurrences; for example if there are 1,000 calls for police services on the Island in a year, and your municipality is responsible for 10 percent of the calls having been made, then you pay 10 percent of the total detachment occurrence costs.”

The officer workload is assessed using a four-year average, said Mr. Berardi.

Mr. Berardi told the meeting of the OPP detachment budget, “85 percent is made up of officer salaries and benefits.”

Austin Hunt, mayor of Billings Township, said it is difficult for municipalities to budget for OPP costs because of the number of occurrences and police salary increases, but Mr. Berardi said this is based on a four-year average.

“Is there any control for officers’ overtime hours?” asked Gore Bay Councillor Lou Addison.

“The detachment commander keeps overtime hours under control,” said Mr. Berardi. He also explained if they receive a call in Northeast Town and the incident leads them to another municipality, the officer tracks all of this information.

“So if an incident takes place in another municipality, but you feel it is being charged to your municipality, is this information available to the municipality?” asked Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin.

“We provide this type of information at our CPAC committee meetings,” said Staff Sergeant Webb.

However, the OPP can’t share one municipality’s information with another municipality, said Mr. Berardi.

“It’s the fixed costs that have gone up dramatically,” said Mr. Skippen. And he said, “it is nice to send the OPP boat out a couple of times to check an operator and a boat, and I’m not trying to get rid of officers, but how many officers do we need compared to what the number used to be?”

There is a formula in place that looks at the number of incidents and the number of officers that are needed in each detachment, Mr. Berardi told the meeting.

“If you look at how many more officers there are now than in the past, and with the First Nations having their own police services, it should mean crime must be down,” said Mr. Skippen.

Mr. Berardi also outlined how municipal police services are more expensive because a lone municipality pays for all the costs, while with the Manitoulin detachment all municipalities share in the costs.

Tom Sasvari