Commentary by Linda Saxon
Council’s motivation to compare policing costs was the level of municipal debt and it was committed to obtaining an OPP costing; it carried two motions to do so.
There were also other cost-saving options to reduce the police budget’s share of municipal taxes.
Council could have established the police budget and maybe taxpayers wouldn’t have been burdened with items like body worn cameras that large police services couldn’t afford because of data storage.
Despite claims over the years that the board was autonomous, according to the Police Services Act: Upon reviewing the estimates, the council shall establish an overall budget for the board for the purposes described in clauses (1) (a) and (b) and, in doing so, the council is not bound to adopt the estimates submitted by the board.
Council could have decided the taxpayers should only pay for a three member Police Services Board instead of the five recommended for a large police service.
Had council elected the OPP in 1998, when the OPP communication system was province wide, taxpayers might have realized $1 million savings annually, or $20 million by now, that could have been put toward infrastructure.
Instead, Amherstburg depended on others for dispatching and switched services a number of times from LaSalle, to Leamington, back to LaSalle, then to Windsor.
The proposed benefits of the 1998 amalgamation were identified as follows:
- operating costs would be stabilized through efficiencies;
- human resources would be deployed more efficiently;
- specialized police units would become financially viable due to the economics of scale;
- labour relations matters would be simplified;
- larger pool of human resources available to deal with major incidents;
- communications and computer systems would be enhanced; and
- several other benefits both to the service and to the public.
Amherstburg had access to the OPP specialized units and did require them on occasion, but will taxpayers now pay for specialized Windsor units 365 days a year whether they are needed or not?
The OPP’s mandate is to patrol the waterways so how necessary was an Amherstburg Police marine unit? Will a Windsor Police marine unit continue to be an unnecessary municipal expenditure?
The Police Services Board could have put an end to the OPP ‘poison pill’ clause in the police contract that seemed to inhibit the town obtaining an OPP costing.
The Windsor Star reported that Taxpayers in Windsor pay more per capita for policing than all other parts of Essex county, sometimes double that of its county neighbours policed by the OPP.
Given those verified figures, and because Amherstburg did not obtain an OPP costing as it was committed to doing, twice, Amherstburg taxpayers lost an opportunity to know if a better cost saving option was possible.
Consequently, no one can claim we got the best bang for our buck, despite that being the goal.
For the past twenty years I have maintained the Amherstburg Police hierarchical structure was costly and unnecessary; after all these years Windsor Police’s proposal to save money will see the hierarchy change.