OPP costing proposal process ‘a matter of dollars and cents’ says analyst

September 16, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

The latest OPP costing proposal process in Orangeville is “a matter of dollars and cents” according to Linda Davis, a contract analyst with the provincial force.

Ms. Davis was joined by Dufferin OPP detachment commander Nicol Randall on Tuesday evening as the pair made their pitch to take over policing services in Orangeville. 

“This is not about service levels, as both OPP and OPS have proven policing experience. Both provide, at a minimum, adequate and effective policing as required by the Police Services Act,” Ms. Davis began. 

“OPS is a stand-alone policing model. It’s an excellent model, but it’s also a very expensive model. Every municipality is faced with increasing budget pressures and must scrutinize their programs and services in attempts to provide those services in the most efficient and cost effective manner.”

A new proposal from the OPP to take over policing services in Orangeville was delivered to town staff on June 10. During a previous OPP costing, which was considered and ultimately turned down by Orangeville’s previous council in 2017, it was estimated that the Town could eventually save as much as $4.3 million per year by accepting a contract with the OPP. However, the provincial force would not stand behind those projections, causing some concerns throughout the community. 

During a presentation to Council earlier this summer, Ms. Davis noted Orangeville would serve a three-year transitional contract upon signing with the OPP. The OPP would gather data over that three-year term, which would be used to develop a longer-term contract with the town. That is all part of the OPP’s new billing model, which was unveiled in 2015. 

Under that new billing model, policing costs are separated into two categories, Base Service and Calls for Service. 

The formula that decides Base Service cost is consistent among all 325 municipalities the OPP currently provides services to. According to Ms. Davis, a municipality’s Base Service rate is based on the number of properties in the community. Activities covered under that Base Service cost include legislated activities (which includes crime prevention, officer availability to respond to calls 24 hours a day, general and directed patrol and victim assistance), proactive policing (programs such as RIDE, traffic safety, community policing and intelligence gathering), officer training, administrative duties and all Inspector and Staff Sergeant positions.

Costs associated with the Calls for Service are specific to each municipality and are based on a community’s individual usage level. Activities covered under Calls for Service include all 911 crime calls (assaults, break & enter, mischief, drug offences etc.), provincial statutes (Mental Health Act, Trespass to Property Act, landlord/tenant disputes etc.), motor vehicle collisions and general calls for service (false alarms, lost property, missing person). 

There is a third component, which Ms. Davis described as Additional Costs, which covers overtime, court security, cleaning/ caretakers, accommodations, prisoner transportation and any other particular enhancements requested by a municipality. Some municipalities, Ms. Davis states, don’t have any Additional Costs, while community’s like Orangeville, which houses a courthouse and provides prisoner transportation, would see additional charges. 

Ms. Davis declared that, in 2019, the OPP is set to recoup $410 million from municipalities policed by the provincial force. Of that, $216 million will come from Base Service, $156 million from Calls for Service and $38 million from Additional Costs. 

Using data gathered through the OPP’s Activity Reporting System, Ms. Davis noted that the average cost per property over the past five years for municipality’s policed by the OPP has remained “relatively stable”, varying between $350 and $360 per property. For comparison, in 2019 the Orangeville Police Service is expected to cost approximately $864 per household.

In this area, for communities policed by OPP, Caledon pays $519 per property, East Garafraxa $300 per property, Amaranth $338 per property, Mono $348 per property and Mulmur $315 per property. 

On Tuesday, Ms. Davis noted the projected first-year cost for Orangeville should it engage the OPP would be $9.3 million, which includes all start-up costs. That number does not include any provincial grants or potential revenues the Town could collect, such as for traffic and parking tickets. 

Every OPS officer interested in joining the OPP would have the opportunity to do so, providing they are “in good standing”, says Ms. Davis. While the provincial force does not currently track response times, Ms. Davis stated she was confident in OPP’s ability to maintain the level of service currently provided by OPS.

“Response times can be a very valuable measure for municipal police serviced with fixed jurisdiction, especially when wanting to compare it with another municipal police service. However, if we were to say response times for the OPP were ‘x number’, what would that really mean when you consider our jurisdiction stretches from Hudson Bay to the north and Lake Ontario to the south,” said Ms. Davis. “Unlike most municipal services, our jurisdictions can be quite large and sparsely populated. In parts of northern Ontario, it may take 45 minutes to respond to a call due to the vast geography. This is not comparable (response time wise) with municipal police services with set boundaries.”

She added, “The OPP is absolutely confident that we will be able to maintain the same response times you currently receive, due to the fact the Town will be its own separate zone and officers will be assigned by zone.”

Ms. Randall confirmed that one sergeant and six constables would be assigned to Orangeville at all times under the terms of a contract with OPP.

Referencing community satisfaction results, Ms. Davis noted 97.9 percent of respondents in Dufferin County felt very safe, or safe in their community, while 92.2 percent of respondents were satisfied with the OPP’s ability to work with the community to solve local problems. Overall, 93.9 percent of respondents were either very satisfied, or satisfied with the service provided by OPP. 

“The OPP is very experienced in community policing. We currently police 325 of Ontario’s 444 municipalities on a cost recovery basis,” Ms. Davis stated. “In closing, I would like to suggest that Council does their homework on this issue. I know concerns are being raised with other municipalities currently policed by OPP – those with concerns, if they look at the numbers, will see (communities) are benefitting from the implementation of our new billing model.”

Below are what we consider to be six of the top questions posed to OPP members on Monday evening;

Q: Tina Hinsberger – OPS currently has a dedicated canine team, dedicated beat officer, dedicated school resource officer, dedicated library foot patrol – would all of the (services we currently have) be considered enhancements over and above the base cost?

A: Linda Davis – They would all be part of regular service delivery. The local programs you have in place now will also be part of the service delivery with OPP. It would be included in the base cost.

Q: Nick Garisto – I have seen other municipalities are considering, or have transitioned away from OPP service. Are you able to provide reasons for this, and are you in consultation with other detachments as to the reasons why?

A: Linda Davis – Two municipalities recently disbanded from OPP – they are St. Mary’s and Perth South. Both those municipalities are in western region. I cannot tell you the reasons for disbanding. It would be best to speak to the municipalities for reasons why they disbanded.

Q: Anne Welwood – I have heard there are changes coming to the Police Services Act that would allow for amalgamation of several police services boards within a detachment area, potentially leading to less meetings and less local input. Right now, our chief and deputy chief are available right away to answer to PSB, would you be available?

A: Nicol Randall – Whether there’s one PSB, or several, I’m happy to meet with them at the call of the chair. The minimum number of meetings you need to have is four per year, but there is no maximum to that. I would be answering the community, I answer quite often to different communities for the five different PSBs I answer to now. I’m at 15 to 20 meetings per year already, so would have no problem (attending more). 

Q: Jennifer Beauregard – Mr. Ford announced in May he would be cutting $46 million from the OPP budget. How will that impact the service you provide to municipalities, will municipalities need to pay more to assist OPP with providing adequate service and what happens when the next Premier comes into power and decides to further cut your budget?

A: Linda Davis – I have no idea what will happen when the next Premier comes into service, and whether or not they will decide to cut services. As far as the more recent announcement made by Mr. Ford, this is not a unique situation for the OPP. We have dealt with budget cuts before, with financial constraints in previous years. As part of our ongoing efforts to be fiscally responsible, our two main areas for budget implications will not be frontline service delivery. We’re looking at cost efficiency in procurements and 10 percent reduction in ODOE (other direct operating expenses) costs. That’s one of the strategies we’re looking at to manage those savings. The other is workforce efficiency.

Q: Trevor Castiglione – Stating six officers will be stationed here. Can you guarantee those officers will be here while we’re paying them and not pulled out to other areas in Dufferin? If you can’t make that guarantee, how do we know we’re getting what we’re paying for if you’re pulling officers out to go into other zones in Dufferin County?

A – Nicol Randall – I can’t guarantee that they won’t be called out to other areas for call for service, just like I can’t guarantee that officers from Caledon, Nottawasaga, Wellington or Grey County won’t be called here to respond to call for service to assist us.

A – Linda Davis – When we prepare the transition contract, we do talk about the number of officers that will be assigned to Orangeville zone. However, service is measured through hours of service. When we saw we’re going to provide 42.58 officers, one officer is equal to 1,417 hours, so essentially we would expect to provide the town of Orangeville with (60,336 hours of service). We’re able to measure that with data collected in our daily activity reporting system, as it tells us where officers are working and how long they’re working for. What we’ll strive to provide is the equivalent of 1,417 hours per FTE contract. 

Q: Anne Welwood – There are a web of contacts OPS has in the community, whether it be Dufferin Situation Table, the Orangeville Food Bank or Family Transition Place (FTP). Is OPP willing to commit to that level of support, either on its own, or if it’s asked to do so by the PSB. Community involvement is very important part of our policing in town.

A: Nicol Randall – Yes, we’re already involved with Dufferin Situation Table, FTP, Dufferin Child and Family Services (DCAFS) and Guelph Wellington Mental Health Program. We’re involved in many of these programs already. We’re on the periphery of town, so it would not be difficult to do the things you’re asking us to do because we already have those relationships established. Your officers who work here now, who we’d hope to hire on, already have those relationships too.

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