Amherstburg Taxpayers Losers In Policing Decision

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:

  1. operating costs would be stabilized through efficiencies;
  2. human resources would be deployed more efficiently;
  3. specialized police units would become financially viable due to the economics of scale;
  4. labour relations matters would be simplified;
  5. larger pool of human resources available to deal with major incidents;
  6. communications and computer systems would be enhanced; and
  7. 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.

Role Of Police Service Advisors

Commentary by Linda Saxon

I inquired if any Police Service Advisors were involved in the police costing process because Advisors are readily available: see page 3 of the OACP (Ontario Association Chiefs of Police), A Process Guidebook for the Review of Policing Options 2012, the guide referred to by CAO Miceli:

“During any consideration of policing options, the initial responsibility of the advisor is to outline for the Board and Council their options and responsibilities under the Act and the potential implications of each. During a review of Policing Options, the advisor is available upon request to provide information and advice to participants in the process. Their advice is based on the legislation contained in the PSA, its regulations, and Ministry guidelines, as well as best practices that arise from other similar restructuring experiences.”

Requesting Ministry Advisors might have been productive and might have saved ratepayers from paying for a private firm like MPM Consulting.

Windsor Staff Sgt. Refers To Police Culture At HRTO Hearing

A Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario hearing was held in Windsor to decide the allegations of Staff Sgt. Christine Bissonnette, who filed a human rights complaint after not being promoted to Inspector.

The Windsor Star reported, Bissonnette argued she was just as qualified as the men who got promotions. But, she said, there is “systemic discrimination” at the force that keeps her down.

“You have to understand the culture of this organization,” she told the hearing adjudicator after the police service’s lawyer repeatedly objected to Bissonnette’s examples.

The hearing is set to resume on dates yet to be selected in April or May.

Three Then-Candidates Did Not Answer Questions About OPP Costing

As a result of the burg watch inviting residents to submit questions to council candidates in 2014, three questions were raised about police costings, a hot topic given the amount of debt the municipality burdened its ratepayers with.

Leo Meloche, Joan Courtney, Rick Fryer did not answer any of the three questions:

Question 6. Obtain OPP Costing, Remove Contract Clause

Question 13. Police Contract Buyout Clause

Question 18. Eliminate Police Contract Poison Pill Clause

How Then-Candidate Bart DiPasquale Answered About OPP Costing

For the first time in an election campaign, the burg watch provided a forum for Amherstburg residents to submit questions to council candidates in 2014.

As a result, questions were raised about police costings, a hot topic given the amount of debt the municipality burdened its ratepayers with.

Of those that were elected, here’s how they answered:

Question 6. Obtain OPP Costing, Remove Contract Clause

No answer.

Question 13. Police Contract Buyout Clause

No answer

Question 18. Eliminate Police Contract Poison Pill Clause

Q. Do you believe the Poison Pill Clause should be eliminated in the Police Contract in order to get an OPP costing to compare the costs of policing of OPP versus Amherstburg Police.

A. I believe this part of the contract should be negotiated out of the contract so we can be on the same playing field as the rest of the Province I getting the best bang for the dollar.

How Then-Candidate Aldo DiCarlo Answered About OPP Costing

For the first time in an election campaign, the burg watch provided a forum for Amherstburg residents to submit questions to council candidates in 2014.

As a result, questions were raised about police costings, a hot topic given the amount of debt the municipality burdened its ratepayers with.

Of those that were elected, here’s how they answered:

Question 6. Obtain OPP Costing, Remove Contract Clause

Q. If elected, will you commit to council obtaining an OPP costing and if appointed to the police services board, will you commit to removing the OPP takeover clause in the police contract? If running for re- election, why did you not consider doing the above?

A. With my labour background, and expertise in contract negotiations, this question is not difficult. For the record, I have negotiated 4 major contracts and facilitate workshops, related to bargaining preparation and successfully negotiating contracts. That said, I spoke with the major stakeholders related to this issue. The information I received was both confusing and frustrating. The current board has had 4 years, at least related to this contract, to request and obtain a costing to switch to OPP services. To my knowledge, no such costing has been requested to this date. Further, such costing has been free of charge to the municipality, but may actually require costs in the future. As a tax paying citizen, this particular point downright infuriates me. Why would the board not acquire something free that could help the Town decide what’s in their best interests. They might tell you that doing so could cause morale problems. However, I now know that they never bothered to even ask the Police Association, so this is just a speculative position. Now the final logic. For those who look at the current demographics of our current Police Force, they’ll notice that the average age is on the young side. Since there is a grandfather date in the contract, this clause wouldn’t apply to most of them. If you see where I’m going, now is the time to successfully remove the takeover clause. I’m sure there would be a minimal cost compared to the cost of implementing the clause, but that’s why it’s called negotiations. There has to be give and take. I can’t honestly say which I’d prefer, municipal or provincial policing. What I can say, what I know, is that the current board didn’t do their due diligence in acquiring the information for us to make an educated decision on what would be best for the town…information that would have been ‘free’. 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.

Question 13. Police Contract Buyout Clause

Q. The Town now is in the process of negotiating a new contract with our local police force. Within this contract (expires Dec 2014) is a clause which if activated could cost our town dearly! What is your knowledge of this buyout clause? what is your understanding of the rational behind the inclusion of it in our contract? What and how many officers would be involved? What would be the cost to our town if enforced one day? From my understanding, we are talking anywhere from 8-10 million dollars would be paid out to officers changing uniforms, not losing jobs? Your thoughts please!

A. Here’s what I know: The buyout clause was inserted sometime in the 1990’s during amalgamation of Essex County. At the time, pensions were not transferable from municipal policing to provincial policing plans. The clause was meant to compensate, or rather not penalize, officers who might be forced to switch. Since that time, municipal pension plans can be transferred to provincial for the officers who choose to go to the OPP. There would be a shortfall for the officers, as their current pension plans aren’t quite equal to the provincial plans. This could likely be negotiated at minimal cost compared to the cost of implementing the clause as is. Approximately half of the current officers would be affected by the pre‐hire date of October 2001, that is, the officers hired prior to this date would receive the maximum 3 months’ pay for every year of service. The others would receive 3 weeks’ pay, I believe. I can’t tell you the exact figure for the cost if enforced today, but I’ve been told it is in the millions? Please see my answer to question 6 for more. As a matter of clarification for those that might think the Police Association has some control over the costing from OPP, they do not. The costing for OPP services must be done by the Board. Please look up who is currently on the Board and ask them why they have never bothered to cost out the OPP services or ask the Association for their position?…at least not to my knowledge.

Edited in original document: I have recently been corrected on who is required to request the costing for OPP. I am told that the OPP costing must be requested by Council, not the Police Board. The rest of my position remains the same. There has been numerous years to request OPP costing by Council, of which there was no cost to the Town.

Question 18. Eliminate Police Contract Poison Pill Clause

Q. Do you believe the Poison Pill Clause should be eliminated in the Police Contract in order to get an OPP costing to compare the costs of policing of OPP versus Amherstburg Police.

A. Please see my answers to questions 6 and 13. No offence to the author of the question, but I would not refer to the clause as the ‘Poison Pill’. It is a clause that had legitimate compensation when it was first introduced. It may not be in the best interests of the Town today, but I believe it can be addressed appropriately.

Facts About OPP Costing

Commentary by Linda Saxon

In response to Glenn Swinton’s letter to the editor, River Town Times.

Glenn Swinton asked some sensible questions; however I wonder if one might not have been posed had the facts been known.

Mr. Swinton asked, “why are we now ‘negotiating’ the RFP with Windsor and not trying to accommodate or meet service levels from the other services that didn’t want to meet the RFP in the first place?”

The then-newly formed Joint Police Advisory Committee determined in July 2016 the OPP costing process was not feasible and the Municipality should drive the process to include bids.

While some municipalities issue RFPs for consultants and establish costing committees to compare all policing options, Amherstburg devised a Joint Police Advisory Committee (JPAC) to ‘guide the development for a Request For Proposal (RFP) and hired a consultant to assist the committee.

It wasn’t that the OPP opted out; the OPP were ready to commence the costing proposal process for Amherstburg in June 2017 following the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services approved OPP costing process.

The OPP requested dates to schedule a meet and greet and asked CAO John Miceli to forward the Municipal Police Service Profile form to Chief Berthiaume or his designate for completion and return within four weeks; this would have been step three of the process.

The RFP was issued in July 2017. Everyone involved ought to have known an RFP for services was a different process than the Ministry-approved OPP costing process implemented around the province.

The JPAC received the OPP Information Manual for the OPP Contract Proposal Process detailing the steps to be followed. And, even though the committee used guidelines for the review of policing options from the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the OPP process was also detailed in it.

The committee also discussed public consultation prior to the RFP even being developed and ratepayers should have had the opportunity to express the level of policing service they expect.

Instead, the public’s choice was limited to maintaining the status quo or selecting Windsor Police Service without knowing if there were better alternatives, despite elected officials’ promises to explore all cost saving options.

Amherstburg’s Request For Proposal (RFP) Policing Services

Commentary by Linda Saxon

On November 14, 2017, I emailed CAO Miceli for the Request For Proposal.

Since I received no response from Miceli, on November 19 I emailed everyone on council requesting it from them.

Following some misunderstanding about what I was actually requesting, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo advised me that the Request For Proposal was public and would be forthcoming. 

The next day, on November 20, Miceli emailed the RFP AMHERSTBURG POLICE SERVICES.

Council Should Get Police Costings For ALL Options

Commentary by Linda Saxon

I submitted the following to be placed on council’s agenda, cc’d to members of council:

I request that you adhere to your commitment to obtaining an OPP costing and to follow the procedure set out in the OPP Information Manual, which includes community consultation.

This council has sought RFPs for legal services: “I just think it is fiscally responsible,” said Courtney, adding her belief that there are other firms that could give a competitive rate to the town.

Council also sought a Request for Proposals (RFP) to try and get more costings for the mosquito situation. Miceli also stated in his report to council that an RFP would address accountability and transparency issues as sole-sourcing the service could cause a political backlash. An RFP would also see if the town could get more value for their money, he added.

An RFP was issued for the Concession 2 North bridge.

The only way taxpayers will know if they are getting the most effective and efficient policing service is by a full cost comparison, which would include the OPP.

Our community deserves the full benefit of a cost comparison of all policing options as well as public meetings regarding the highest budget item.

Information About OPP Costing Process and Adequate And Effective Policing Readily Available

Commentary by Linda Saxon

The River Town Times article, OPP Does Not Give Costing by Ron Giofu, reports, in part, that DiCarlo didn’t doubt the OPP provides an excellent police service, he said he didn’t understand their costing model. He said while the town understands it would get “adequate and effective” policing from the OPP, “they won’t tell us exactly what that means.”

I would have thought that as an Amherstburg Police Services Board member, Mayor DiCarlo would have access to the Police Services Act, (PSA) that stipulates every municipality shall adequate and effective services in accordance with its needs and sets out, at a minimum what that must include.

Also, the October 20, 2017 Information Manual for the OPP Contract Proposal Process reiterates the same and also includes information about the Police Adequacy and Effectiveness Standards Regulation under the PSA :

“The Police Adequacy and Effectiveness Standards Regulation (Adequacy Standards) helps ensure the effective delivery of policing services. It was filed as O.Reg. 3/99 on January 8, 1999.

The regulation was part of the government’s overall strategy to provide Police Services Boards (PSB) and police services, the structure and tools they needed to ensure adequacy and effectiveness. All police services were to be in compliance by January 1, 2001.

Additionally, the regulation required all PSBs to develop a plan, setting out the steps needed to be taken by the board and the police service in order to meet the requirements of the regulation.

The Adequacy Standards regulation content is high level. It provides flexibility in implementation, including service delivery i.e. contracting with another police service or organization, or providing crime prevention initiatives on a regional or cooperative basis.

The primary focus of the Adequacy Standards regulation is on what police services do, and not how they should do it. Overall, it is designed to ensure that all Ontarians receive core police services.”

The OPP’s Information Manual clearly sets out costing timelines and steps, and oh, look at step 6:

“Municipal Council Consideration/Public Consultation and Decision.”

Have Amherstburg taxpayers been denied an opportunity to compare and provide input on ALL police costing proposals? Since it is only after council’s decision to move forward with the ‘local’ or Windsor Police options, I have to ask, as Mayoral candidate Aldo DiCarlo did during the 2014 campaign: “Did a single one of the current council members do their due diligence in requesting an OPP costing early enough so that we could have reviewed our options now that the contract is being negotiated? I believe the answer is no, and I’d be happy to be wrong.”

In response to the Commentary, “No Commitment To Remove OPP Clause In Police Contract,” then- Mayoral Candidate Aldo DiCarlo’s full comment posted on October 17, 2014 was:

This is an issue that I have spent a considerable amount of time on, specifically because of the large potential savings, $1M or more. At last night’s debate, Deputy Mayor Suttherland stated that an OPP costing takes at least 18 months. As a taxpaying resident, not a just a mayoral candidate, this both angers and frustrates me. If it does indeed take this amount of time, why then did not a single council member make the motion to request the OPP costing. If one of them did, I would like to know who and why it was voted down. ALL contracts have an expiry date. Did a single one of the current council members do their due diligence in requesting an OPP costing early enough so that we could have reviewed our options now that the contract is being negotiated? I believe the answer is no, and I’d be happy to be wrong.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo Comments on Commentary About Police Costing

Note: CAO John Micelli has not responded to a request for the policing Request for Proposal. Since the original commentary was in response to information and quotes in the Windsor Star, no corrections will be made.

The Mayor’s comment is set out below here and following the original post, Policing In Amherstburg – Who Knows Best?

Aldo DiCarlo on said

No disrespect, but your assumption of what was presented for ALL parties to quote, is not correct. The assumption that we demanded the organisational structure we currently have remain in tact is incorrect. What we provided as our guidelines was that any parties confirm their costing. For example, if we asked for 3 or 6 officers, we expected to have that confirmed in returned service. We are not going to pay for patrols we aren’t getting. The OPP model will tell you what they believe you need, fair enough, but they won’t confirm that you will get what you pay for. As mayor, accountable to confirm the taxpayers funds are being used accordingly, I am not okay with that. The OPP did not opt not to cost because they didn’t agree with our service levels, they declined to cost because they refuse to confirm service levels after you’ve contracted them. This I have confirmed with other municipalities who have switched to OPP. There will be a definite savings offered by Windsor, which residents will see as equal to or better than OPP’s current model, the question is “are residents even interested in switching to enjoy those savings?”. So far, the resounding answer to me has been ‘no thanks, we’ll pay the extra’. Thanks for keeping Amherstburg residents informed.

Also note, any typos were originated from the commenter’s submission.

Policing In Amherstburg – Who Knows Best?

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.