Amherstburg should opt for cheaper OPP policing

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Published on: December 15, 2015 Windsor Star

Re: Amherstburg asks Windsor to make an offer on regional policing, by Trevor Wilhelm, Dec. 7.

Mayor Drew Dilkens believes Windsor can outdo the OPP in effectiveness and save Amherstburg money. But will it save the approximate $1 million that the OPP model would save the taxpayers?

I doubt it, especially given that regional police services have considered and/or obtained OPP costings and the majority of police services in the province do have OPP provide policing services.

According to OPP estimates, municipalities with and without contracts save on average anywhere from 35 per cent to 60 per cent by using the OPP instead of having their own police forces — figures reported by the auditor general of Ontario.

For many years, the OPP communications system was in effect countywide. Rather than take advantage of their system, Amherstburg paid for LaSalle’s, then Leamington’s and then back to LaSalle’s dispatching when Leamington switched to OPP policing.

If Windsor and Amherstburg police combined services, it would be an amalgamation of two services, not a regional policing model.

Regardless, Amherstburg would have to incur the expense, once again, for another new communications system since, at this point, Windsor and Amherstburg’s communication systems are incompatible.

The Records Management System of the two policing services is also incompatible. Windsor does not use the NICHE system that OPP, Amherstburg and most other police services use.

Amherstburg taxpayers have long supported a police department hierarchy unparalleled by similar-sized OPP detachments and regardless of whether a community decides on an amalgamated service or a regional policing model that extra financial burden will continue.

Amherstburg need only look to the experience and savings its neighbouring communities enjoy by opting for the OPP policing option.

OPP Payout Clause Remains In Amherstburg Police Contract

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Ron Giofu, River Town Times, reports that Amherstburg police, APSB agree on two-year contract.

Whether or not negotiations were underway has been written about multiple times, including referencing an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Decision regarding Sgt. Jim Saxon’s discrimination because of age complaint.

The Board requested the application be dismissed, suggesting the matter was appropriately dealt with at Conciliation and alternatively, requested it be deferred, pending the 2015 collective agreement negotiations, although no documentation was submitted 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.”

The police services board negotiates the contract and, since council has opted to have a five member board, typically for the size of a municipality with a population of 25,000 and more, two members of council are also members of the board: in this case, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Councillor Jason Lavigne. Otherwise, for a municipality the size of Amherstburg, a three member board would suffice and there would be one council rep on the board, pursuant to the Police Services Act.

Readers of the burg watch were concerned enough to have submitted three questions to candidates regarding the OPP poison pill clause during the 2014 municipal election campaign. Rightfully so.

The OPP provides policing services to the majority of the province’s municipalities, 324, that enjoy savings of approximately $1 million dollars annually; that equals about $17 million dollars in savings since amalgamation that, according to a CBC News report in May 2015, didn’t help smaller communitiesThe study finds significant increases in property taxes, compensation for municipal employees, and long term debt between 2000 and 2012; Amherstburg’s debt was another hot topic during the election campaign.

According to the RTT article, “While there still would be a $1 million payout to officers if town council were to agree to switch to OPP, DiCarlo said that would be made up in infrastructure costs. Wages and benefits would still likely remain at roughly the same level but the savings for the town would be in infrastructure costs of about $1 million per year.”

I would suggest that the $1 million dollar savings would not be in infrastructure, but rather wages and benefits as a result of not having an unnecessary top heavy hierarchical policing structure.

As previously noted, the 2012 Annual Report of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario included a Cost Comparison of Municipal Police Services, 2011; the estimated per capita cost of police services for a population between 15,000 and 49,999 was:

  • Municipal Police Service $284.00
  • OPP – with contract $150.00
  • OPP – no contract $131.00

Members of the board and the police association should recognize that it is in the community’s and ratepayers’ best interests for policing options to provide for optimal cost savings and, in my opinion, should not be limited based on a self serving clause in a collective agreement.

Amherstburg Police Services Board Decided On Cheap Silver Badge

Commentary by Linda Saxon

You might recall the March 14, 2015 post, Amherstburg Police – A Cheap And Shameful Sendoff regarding Sgt. Jim Saxon’s differential treatment and how, unlike other retiring police officers, he received a cheap silver badge instead of the traditional gold.

At that time, I stated, “To treat one of their own officers with such disdain instigates nothing but disrespect and disgust from me.”

At that time I was unaware of some information, for example, who made the decision. I recently learned from a reputable source that two sets of badges were ordered – one in silver for all retiring officers in 2013/2014 and another in gold for everyone but Sgt. Saxon.

I emailed Mayor DiCarlo today to express my disgust; that it’s a disgraceful send off and, in my opinion, illustrates a lack of professionalism and enmity by the decision maker.

Mayor DiCarlo confirmed that it was a Board decision and he did anticipate it might be an issue.

A more detailed history can be found at bullyinginpolicing.com.

The Amherstburg Police Services Board members, as listed on the town’s website were:

as of November 18, 2014
Councillor John Sutton
Frank Cleminson
Pauline Gemmell
Wayne Hurst

as of December 16, 2014
Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, successful municipal candidate
Councillor Jason Lavigne, successful municipal candidate
Pauline Gemmell, Chair, unsuccessful muncipal candidate
Frank Cleminson, unsuccessful muncipal candidate

as of January 20, 2015
Mayor Aldo DiCarlo

Councillor Jason Lavigne
Pauline Gemmell
Frank Cleminson
Patricia Simone

as of March 17, 2015
Mayor Aldo DiCarlo
Councillor Jason Lavigne 
Pauline Gemmell
Patricia Simone
Robert Rozankovic

I remember some campaign promises to be responsible, accountable, transparent, etc. Wayne Hurst did not run.

The following quotes were published in the River Town Times during the 2014 campaign:

John Sutton “At the end of the day, we’ve had enough negativity,” he said. “For every challenge we have, let’s turn it into opportunity, put our best foot forward so we are in the paper for all the right reasons.”

Aldo DiCarlo A need for greater transparency, accountability and fixing the town’s finances are among the top priority for Aldo DiCarlo. “Why aren’t we discussing everything openly?” he said. “In any decisions being made, I’ll make them for the people who elected me as mayor,” he pledged. “If people are telling me something is wrong, I will address it. Period,” he said.

Jason Lavigne “I tried to educate myself on how things run and how you do things properly. I learned a great deal over the last four years.”

Pauline Gemmell “You have to be open-minded and listen to positions others have as well,” said Gemmell.

Frank Cleminson “I want to bring a team approach to council. I want transparency, accountability and a good dialogue on all the issues that come before us.” While it is fine to debate and disagree on issues, he said that animosity must not occur.

Robert Rozankovic “I see a lot of petty bickering,” said Rozankovic, who questions if council members vote with their colleagues and personal agendas. “Once the road is decided upon, you leave all the pettiness behind. You can’t continue with the bickering because you don’t agree with the decision.”

Not surprisingly, some of the board minutes are not posted and it is unknown when the decision was made.

New Amherstburg Police Services Board Tight-Lipped About Legal Fees

In a previous post, I set out a chronology of my ignored request to the previous Amherstburg Police Services Board for the legal cost to the board/taxpayer for the Board’s defence of an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Application for age discrimination by Sgt. J. Saxon; he was denied life insurance, short and long term disability benefits when he reached 60, contrary to the Code and despite there being no cost.

The Amherstburg Police Services Board considered my request at its March 17, 2015 meeting and decided that “legal costs relative to specific matters are privileged information. The only information available to the public is overall legal costs.”

To quote the fictional Blackadder, “utter crap!”

The Amherstburg Police Services Board, as of the 2014 municipal election, consists of:

  • Pauline Gemmell, Chair, unsuccessful muncipal candidate
  • Frank Cleminson, unsuccessful muncipal candidate
  • Robert Rozankovic, unsuccessful muncipal candidate
  • Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, successful municipal candidate
  • Councillor Jason Lavigne, successful municipal candidate

What happened to accountability and transparency?

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Amherstburg Police – A Cheap And Shameful Sendoff

It has been a long standing tradition for police officers to receive a gold badge upon retirement; that is until Sgt. Saxon retired and received a cheap silver badge.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Saxon has received differential treatment, but it is the distasteful conclusion of a long history of 28 years and 8 months, a summary of which can be found at bullyinginpolicing.com, but in a nutshell:

  • he didn’t get promoted, despite being qualified
  • he was excluded from a succession plan
  • his personal medical information and that of his family’s was breached
  • fellow officers surreptitiously followed and reported on his and his family’s activities
  • i was surreptitiously investigated for an alleged criticism of the police
  • procedures were not followed for medals routinely given to others
  • police reported to great west life, “both him and his wife are activists and are always on about something, they have a website, etc.”
  • the board dismissed my subsequent complaint about Berthiaume following a one-sided investigation
  • he was denied benefits once he turned 60, contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code.

I can understand how entrenched the local attitude is, coming from local residents who want to keep the local cops, despite the estimated extra million or million and half cost to the taxpayer every year.

However, no one will ever convince me that the local police are somehow worth keeping, a sentiment shared by others I’ve had conversations with, including ‘locals.’

To treat one of their own officers with such disdain instigates nothing but disrespect and disgust from me.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

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.

Toronto can’t afford another sweetheart deal with its police union

According to The Star’s editorial on policing costs in Toronto, “The base salary for a first-class constable is now more than $90,000. But there’s more. Officers enjoy perks exceedingly rare in the private sector, including permission to bank up to 18 sick days a year and cash them out for tens of thousands of dollars; lavish “retention pay” bonuses; city-funded massages, and even having taxpayers cover the cost of doing their laundry.

Salaries and benefits gobble up 90 per cent of Toronto’s $1.15-billion police budget. And they’ve frankly become unaffordable, especially in light of falling crime rates across North America.”

Comment by Linda Saxon: fortunately, Amherstburg Police Service is one of those rare services in Ontario that did not negotiate ‘retention pay;’ it would have cost the taxpayers more, but nowhere near what the feared OPP takeover clause has cost us – an estimated million dollars a year to ‘keep it local.’