Commentary by Linda Saxon
RE: Amherstburg reviews policing proposal from Windsor by Julie Kotsis, The Windsor Star
In my opinion, the Town of Amherstburg did a disservice to its taxpayers when it issued a policing Request for Proposal that ‘emulated the same level of service that we presently have.’
No wonder Windsor was the only police service to meet the RFP guidelines, which include a top- heavy hierarchy mirrored in other municipal police services but unparallel in OPP detachments.
Had Amherstburg elected officials not persistently maintained a municipal police service since its 1997 amalgamation with Anderdon and Malden, taxpayers could have realized an approximate one million dollar savings annually.
The then-Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services decided the newly amalgamated police service should have allowed for adequate and effective policing if the proposal was implemented as presented; it was for a while.
Three patrol zones were proposed with 24 hour a day policing and a maximum strength per 12 hour shift of six officers: 3 in Zone 1, 1 in each of Zones 2 and 3 and another officer would support all three zones as may be required.
By 2010, the Amherstburg Police Service Annual Report noted, “The Town is divided into 2 patrol zones ensuring that all areas receive an ongoing police presence.” Amherstburg Police Chief Berthiaume would not provide me with information relative to my 2011 request for the number of days in that year where less than four officers were on patrol.
In addition to the change in patrol zones, the police services board and police association agreed to a ‘poison pill’ contract clause that would cost taxpayers heavily if the municipality ever decided to choose OPP policing. Both parties should have known it was unnecessary because no policing model would have been approved unless officers were dealt with fairly and there was an arbitration process if necessary.
Policing was a hot election campaign issue in 2014 when residents questioned candidates about committing to council obtaining an OPP costing and/or removing the ‘poison pill’ clause. the burg watch posted all questions from residents and all candidates’ answers provided during the 2014 election campaign.
Mayoral candidate Aldo DiCarlo stated, in part, “I would definitely acquire this information, if given the chance, and then work with the appropriate parties to achieve what’s best for the Town, or more importantly, what the Town feels is best for them.”
Councillor candidate Jason Lavigne stated, “I believe there should be a cost comparison between the opp and our local service done. In order to get a true idea of the possible cost savings the “poison pill” needs to be addressed. Unfortunately this can only be done by the police services board and not council.”
Rather than now dictate the status quo policing model, council should have sought extensive public input to determine the community’s policing needs.
By continuing to narrowly focus on a municipal policing service model, despite the majority of the province realizing cost savings through OPP, Amherstburg taxpayers will be denied the opportunity to know the most cost effective police service option.