Amherstburg chief wants all front-line police to wear body cameras

If Chief Timothy Berthiaume has “always been committed to openness and transparency” why are the costs of data storage and court transcription not disclosed?
The pilot program began in April 2013, not January 1, 2014.
Given the $46 million debt Amherstburg is dealing with, (about half of Windsors’s debt) how can wish list items like these cameras be justified?
Windsor Police Chief Al Frederick says the costs are prohibitive and other police services feel the same way.

Discriminatory Language In Amherstburg Police Service Contract

Commentary by Linda Saxon

The Amherstburg Police Services Board and the Amherstburg Police Association negotiated contracts that include retirement at age 60, contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The Assistant Deputy Minister, Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, advised all Chiefs of Police on January 15, 2007 of the proclamation of the Ending Mandatory Retirement Statute Act.

On March 5, 2012, Chief Tim Berthiaume advised then-Sgt. Saxon that he had no benefits since he just turned 60, that the town hall staff advised him. The town switched from Great West Life to Sun Life in February 2012 to save an approximate $52,000.00 annually. The town hall staff handles payroll/benefits for the police service and AON Hewitt, a benefits management company, was under contract as the named broker of record for the town.

Health Benefits cease at 60 in the collective agreement, but the Board arbitrarily amended it by deleting the age 60 reference in that section.

Chief Berthiaume provided the Board with 2012 proposed rate increases for discussion of life, AD&D, short and long term disability coverage. Life insurance was secured to age 65; there is no reference to age in the collective agreement with respect to that benefit.

The Association and Board never met to discuss this matter; they ‘negotiated’ through correspondence and no record of a formal grievance was disclosed. The Board’s position was that the appropriate time for discussion would be during the 2015 contract negotiations.

An unsuccessful Conciliation Hearing was held on December 5, 2012.

The Association did not pursue Arbitration; Saxon was told it was a human rights matter, although Arbitrators can interpret and apply Human Rights legislation and there is no fee for a Rights Arbitrator.

The Association had previously been involved in two Interest Arbitrations; in 1990 when it obtained historical parity with Windsor Police (unlike Windsor, retention pay has not been negotiated in Amherstburg) and in 2008 for a 2.5% rate increase for one officer’s position.

Saxon filed a Human Rights Tribunal Application; the Association hired a lawyer to defend its position while the Board relied on the town lawyer. The Board requested dismissal, suggesting the matter was appropriately dealt with at Conciliation and alternatively, requested deferral, pending the 2015 collective agreement negotiations. No documentation was filed indicating negotiations were ongoing. An Interim Decision was issued on June 23, 2014 by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal; “the Board’s requests to dismiss or defer the Application are denied.”

In January 2014, Chief Tim Berthiaume inquired about rates for long term disability and referenced the 2015 collective agreement. Despite a 0% rate increase to extend short and long term disability benefits for officers above age 60, no change was made.

A new request has been submitted to the Board for the cost to the taxpayer to defend itself against the age discrimination complaint because, as posted previously, Amherstburg Police Services Board Ignored Question About Legal Fees.

Shame on the Board and the Association for not changing the collective agreement to reflect legislative changes to mandatory retirement and the human rights code regarding age, but negotiating the OPP takeover clause from 1998 to the current collective agreement and negotiating protection from discrimination because of Association membership.

Guidelines for police on body-worn cameras

Wendy Gillis, the star, reports today on the “new guidelines released by the federal and provincial information watchdogs Wednesday — principles experts say will provide police with much-needed direction when using the fast-expanding policing tool.”

The document, Guidance for the use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement authorities, is posted on the Office of the Privacy Commissioner Canada’s website.

Amherstburg Police began wearing body cameras in the spring of 2013.

Amherstburg Police were to have conducted a final study by the end of 2014 to select a body worn camera for patrol officers or shelve project if not feasible for APS needs, according to the 2014 ~ 2016 Business Plan.

Julie Kotsis, The Windsor Star, reported at the end of 2014, “No decision has been made on their permanent use, according to Berthiaume, who added he recently updated the Amherstburg Police Services Board and plans a re-evaluation in the spring.”

Passionate About Policing

Commentary by Linda Saxon

The idea of regional policing, amalgamated services and/or OPP policing has surfaced many times, but official costings were not always obtained so that a true comparison of ‘apples to apples’ could have been made.

In the meantime, for decades, Amherstburg taxpayers have paid a hefty price for a top heavy ‘local police service’ while elected officials disregarded the opportunity to reduce debt, provide increased accessibility or amenities with an estimated annual savings of a million dollars with an OPP option.

Historically, there has been an emphasis on the ‘local‘ officers by politicians and Chief Tim Berthiaume, who boasted that over 50 per cent of the officers are native to Amherstburg, including himself – a fact that has very little, if anything, to do with qualifications or efficient and effective policing.

Are the less than 50 per cent not native to Amherstburg less valued?

The River Town Times reports that A petition is being circulated to keep the police force local: “Meloche said her encounters with local police officers have been “very friendly” and “whenever you call them, they are there.” She said she didn’t want to see a situation where out-of-town officers are rotated into Amherstburg and not have an understanding of the community.”

Out of towners would be expected to provide professional policing services; wouldn’t suggesting otherwise be just as illogical as touting local employees as the best and only option despite the high cost?

In another RTT article, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo mentioned that Chief Tim Berthiaume as well as the Amherstburg Police Association could be utilized to gather input and analysis of the bids. Would anyone be surprised if either the Chief or the Association found fault with any proposal but the local option?

I disagree with DiCarlo, who said the police budget is “cut and dry” and that the current force is a “lean” one. Compare any OPP detachment to the local department and the difference in cost is due to the hierarchical structure and costing method.

The community needs to decide if it’s worth paying the cost to keep it local for tradition sake or if it’s time to admit that tax savings are needed, not tax increases.

Some would argue the safest community in all of canada designation is due to the Amherstburg Police efforts. I disagree; firstly, the statement is not factual and secondly, the caveat is that the statistics are only as good as those that were submitted; for example, if crime/incidents were not investigated, and therefore not submitted, they would not be included in the statistics.

Regardless, community input is needed and an objective decision has to be made. I, for one, can not support a local option that, in my opinion, handcuffs ratepayers and influences any decision because of unrealistic severance packages.

I have been a vocal critic of the Amherstburg Police for a long time; some of the reasons can be found at bullying in policing.

See also Discriminatory Language in Amherstburg Police Service Contract.

Town council to seek RFP for legal services

Town Council has examined legal fees of $1.4 million from 2010-14 and has decided to seek an RFP (request for proposal). The legal fees for the Amherstburg Police have not been mentioned; as previously noted, Amherstburg Police Chief Tim Berthiaume stated, “the amherstburg police service does not ‘breakdown’ legal expenses.” As inevitably happens in a small town, there is a rumour that a certain ‘local lawyer’ is in a favourable position. River Town Times full article.

Amherstburg police continue to test body-worn video cameras

Amherstburg Police was scheduled to conclude its study by the end of 2014 and select a body worn camera for patrol officers or shelve the project if not feasible for APS needs.
Now Berthiaume says, “I’m happy with the results so far but we’re still evaluating.”

New Deputy Chief To Start In April

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Just like the hiring of the new CAO by the outgoing council, the outgoing police services board introduced a new deputy chief, who will assume the role April 1, 2015.

Berthiaume is quoted in the RTT article, “I think the community will learn to love and respect him like I already do.”  

Let’s hope we’re not seeing another two salaries for one position situation. According to The Windsor Star, Berthiaume originally stated, “We want to start the process and identify the successful candidate before the year’s end because we want to have an overlap between the two deputies for a short period of time.”

I’m somewhat surprised, given the historic emphasis on the ‘locals’ that an ‘outsider’ has been hired and an OPP member at that.

According to an Amherstburg Echo article about Berthiaume’s and Palumbo’s respective promotions, Hurst commented, “We have two home-grown individuals that will holding the two highest offices for the police department in Amherstburg.” Sutton also noted that Berthiaume and Palumbo are Amherstburg natives and said it was a “great day” to promote local men to lead the force.

For the fact checkers: Amherstburg is not the safest community – Barrie is the safest city in Canada, says crime rate stats

Amherstburg Police Patrol Zones Changed After Amalgamation

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Following amalgamation, the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services’ decision regarding the ‘new’ policing proposal was, “From the standpoint of staffing, deployment and supervision, the proposal overall appears sound, and if the proposal is implemented as presented, it should allow for adequate and effective policing in the Town of Amherstburg.”

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. Another officer would support all three zones as may be required.

The minimum strength per 12 hour shift was to be one officer per zone with a minimum strength of four officers until 4:00 a.m.

By 2010, as noted on page 8 of the Amherstburg Police Service Annual Report, “The Town is divided into 2 patrol zones ensuring that all areas receive an ongoing police presence.”

In a December 9, 2011 commentary, Amherstburg Police Chief Berthiaume Tight-lipped About Deployment, I asked, how will we know if we’re getting the service that was proposed if there is no accountability?

The question is just as relevant today; the only way to determine the best policing option for our community is to undertake a full comparison and obtain an OPP costing. Council’s decision should not be a subjective one based on speculation or fears, but an objective one based on facts and figures.

Five of the seven essex county municipalities are policed by the OPP as are 324 of the 444 Ontario municipalities; what have we got to lose?

Amherstburg cop resigns, settles case for $110K

Police service board chairman John Sutton said “an offer was made” and the board “debated its merits. “We’re always open to anything.”

Sutton said the offer came from the defence during a meeting two weeks ago between the lawyers where an “overture” was made that was presented to the board.

Sutton said the board’s decision to accept the offer was “a business decision.”

He estimated it would have cost in excess of $240,000 to litigate the case.

A financial settlement of $110,000, which works out to one year’s pay, plus $1,300 owed in stat time that Sutton said the service is legally obligated to pay, was agreed to.

“This allows both parties to move on,” Sutton said.
Read the full story about Colleen Sterling, at the windsor star – Amherstburg cop resigns, settles case for $110K.

Will Councillor Sutton’s Motion Restore Public Trust?

time will tell if it’s posturing or an attempt to make real changes following the Ombudsman’s investigative findings that the town contravened the Municipal Act in its handling of several in-camera meetings in January 2011. according to the amherstburg echo, (full story), sutton believes his january 23 motion will serve as a starting point towards rectifying the damage done by the ombudsman report.

the damage was done by members of council who continued to participate in the practice, despite the Ombudman’s March 17, 2011 letter to the town, in which it stated, “In the future, Council should be vigilant in ensuring that the most appropriate exception or exceptions are cited in the resolution to proceed into closed session, and that all discussions taking place in camera fall within the cited exception(s). This ensures that the public is fully aware of why Council is proceeding into closed session, and increases the transparency of the Council process.” The letter further stated, “In the future, Council should ensure that no voting takes place during closed session, unless the vote is for a procedural matter and/or giving direction to staff, in accordance with s. 239(6) of the Act”.

sutton also mentioned that some of the errors found by the Ombudsman were clerical errors that have to be corrected; some clerical errors at the amherstburg police station had to also be corrected.

i requested an amherstburg police services board motion regarding my correspondence to the board, but i received a criminal records check of another individual that was emailed to me in error. during the course of an Information and Privacy Commission Ontario investigation, i learned that Chief Tim Berthiaume explained that the secretary scanned and attached the email and attachment without confirming the contents. Additionally, the board explained that unfortunately, it was not until my second email that the person responsible for the error understood the situation. i had emailed twice that i was not interested in any personal information but my own. in an october 28, 2011 letter, the IPC analyst advised that she was satisfied with the assurances that the board would continue to take any steps they felt appropriate to obtain my confirmation that the record had been deleted.

chief tim berthiaume sent two letters requesting that i immediately delete and confirm that it has been deleted as soon as possible. in his june 28, 2011 letter, he stated, in part, “the amherstburg police service takes privacy issues very seriously.” how ironic that my june 2011 inquiry to the board related to a breach of my information and the board decided to dismiss it; read john sutton’s letter. note: clerical errors in the letter are not mine.

it will take time to restore the public trust.  council should act as councillor pouget suggests: thank the Ombudsman, take the report seriously and take the free training – that would be a good starting point.