Pricetag for local policing jumps $800,000+

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

December 9, 2009

Haldimand could pay $806,404 more per year to renew a five-year contract with the Ontario Provincial Police and the county's complement of full-time constables would still be reduced by 2.22, to 47.88.

A reduction of 3,257 hours (nine hours per day) in the guaranteed minimum service level can be offset if uniformed officers are available to work more than the guaranteed minimum of 1,467 hours per year, according to a report submitted by Haldimand's GM of Corporate Services, Karen General.

Council deferred a decision on the matter at Monday's Council in Committee meeting. There was a time constraint due to a lengthy agenda and council is also waiting to hear from Haldimand's OPP Inspector regarding a new visibility plan that could potentially add $126,000 in annual operating costs.

Coun. Lorne Boyko pointed out that the county has been accustomed to an enhanced level of OPP service since 2006 due to issues involving First Nations.

"John Q. Public is concerned about the bodies."

Boyko chairs Haldimand's PSB that did not support officer reductions. The county's staff and solicitor disagreed.

The contract is based on hours and there's no financial credit for vacant positions as long as the guaranteed minimum level of service is provided annually, General noted.

"Having 2.22 FTE fewer constables paid for by the contract will help the county ensure it is not paying for services not received," according to her report. "It will be extremely important for the PSB (Police Services Board) to monitor the available resources, in comparison to the authorized strength, to ensure the vacant positions are filled expeditiously. Such diligence is necessary to ensure that the county's paid policing positions are being deployed since we will pay for them whether filled or not, as long as the minimum hours are met on an annual basis."

The OPP says that it may face challenges to meet minimum service levels due to a lack of new recruits.

Enhanced levels of service couldn't be justified given the economic challenges facing the county and the issue of bodies, General emphasized in her report.

The cost increase is mostly due to an increase in officer salaries that averages out to approximately $15,000 per constable, according to Acting Staff Sgt. Carl Butler, who's responsible for planning and processes with the OPP's Western Region.

Caledonia Coun. Craig Grice said that the contract is weighed heavily in favour of the provincial police force. He's rather have more manpower to ensure service levels.

Council could opt to spend $300,000 more for enhanced level of policing service.