Not surprisingly, council approved another annual Amherstburg Police Services Board budget without much debate.
According to the River Town Times budget article, “Meloche asked about the necessity of the new non-lethal beanbag guns, stating he didn’t want the municipality to spend money it didn’t have to.”
A lofty principle but, historically, Amherstburg taxpayers have supported Amherstburg Police wish lists thanks to council’s commitment to maintaining a local police service whatever the costs.
The RTT article continued, “Berthiaume stated “It’s just another tool in the toolbox.” Lavigne, who is also chair of the police services board, complimented the service and Berthiaume stating that being first to do something puts Amherstburg ahead of others.”
So now being first is a priority?
Well it was important enough for Amherstburg taxpayers to be the first in Ontario to bear the expense of the controversial police body worn cameras and storage despite large police services not being able to find the money to purchase them.
And, for decades Amherstburg taxpayers have borne the cost of a five member Amherstburg Police Services Board when three members were recommended for a municipality under 25,000 as per the Police Services Act. Only by a council resolution can the composition increase to that of a large municipality so council must believe a large board in our small municipality is required.
Rather than switch to the more taxpayer friendly OPP during the 1998 amalgamation, or since, we taxpayers have paid for a top-heavy hierarchical police service that one might also find in a large city.
Following the amalgamation and local policing option, both the Amherstburg Police Services Board and Amherstburg Police Association agreed to a collective agreement with a hefty OPP buyout clause that effectively stifled more than a passing thought of switching to the cost saving OPP.
We taxpayers have also easily handled all the Amherstburg Police litigation costs, which, on one occasion, the Amherstburg Police Services Board considered ‘privileged information; the only information available to the public is overall legal costs’ which was all that was ever requested – never a line by line justification of legal fees.
I agree that the bean bag guns are an unnecessary purchase. Elected officials’ spending on behalf of taxpayers needs to reflect the fact that we live in a small town in trying economic times where taxpayers can ill afford big city big ticket items for ‘what if’ policing scenarios.
Commentary Linda Saxon