Remarks by: Gary McNamara, AMO President and Mayor, Town of Tecumseh. 2015 Ontario Small Urban Municipalities (OSUM) Conference. City of Belleville.
Remarks by Gary McNamara,
Friday May 1st, 2015
2015 OSUM Conference
City of Belleville

Policing Modernization in Ontario

(Check Against Delivery)

This is the final session of this conference before you return to your communities with all that you have learned these past few days.  It has been a jammed pack agenda, and thanks to OSUM, there is much for you to share when you get home.

One important fact you should share with your colleagues and your residents is that here in Ontario, we pay the highest policing costs in the country.  I’ll say it again, Ontarians pay the highest policing costs in the country.

In 2011, Ontarians spent $320 per capita on policing.  We estimate it is at least $35 more than Albertans, $56 more than British Columbians, and $24 more than Quebecers.   Nationally, Ontario’s share of municipal policing costs is 48%, although Ontario only makes up 39% of the Canadian population.  

That last figure is important. We pay just shy of half of Canada’s municipal policing costs, yet we’re not even 40% of the national population.  Some may say that half of the national problem with the cost of policing is owned right here in Ontario.

Not only do we have the highest policing costs in the country, we also pay the highest property taxes in the country.  Now, there are many reasons for this, some of which you just heard about from Monika Turner.  We cannot blame that all on policing.  But what we do clearly have is a fundamental problem.  I know you know that.  I am preaching to the converted.

On Monday, AMO’s Policing Modernization Task Force released its report.  For those in our communities who might still doubt that we do have a financial problem, there is plenty of information in that report which paints a very clear fiscal picture.  It includes nine pages and six charts which illustrate the issue.  Even more can be found on the AMO website’s policing page.

I am confident the public gets it.  I am confident the public understands the nature of the problem.  Let me give you an example.  

A recent survey of nearly 600 Torontonians asked what they thought was the number one issue facing Toronto’s next Chief of Police.  The answer? It was not crime.  It was not carding.  It was the cost of policing.

This is not just a problem in Toronto.  The province-wide concerns for OPP billing, the OPP wage settlement of 2014 are just a couple of examples of the province wide nature of this issue.  I know many of you have your own local examples too.

I think it is safe to say, the problem is now well defined and well understood.  

I strongly feel that now is the time for us to start talking about what the solutions might look like.  As one policing expert fittingly said, “Change requires direction and oversight from the political and civilian authorities to which police report.”

The report which we released on Monday is about just that.  The Task Force explored fundamental questions that every society should ask from time to time: How do we want to be policed?  How can we improve on what we do now?  What can we in Ontario do to build a public safety model our children can afford?

It is a foundation for the next stage of the conversation we need to have, as elected officials of one order of government to the next.  It is a conversation to have with the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, police officers and their associations.  It is a conversation for Ontarians.

AMO fundamentally believes in the need to advance the agenda of reform.  The paper is designed to broaden the discussion and inject a change of pace in shaping the future.  

These ideas presented in the Task Force’s report are not set in stone; they are a starting point.  The Task Force interviewed experts, reviewed the best academic research available, sent representatives to the 2015 Summit on the Economics of Policing and Community Safety in Ottawa, and had thorough and lengthy discussions on specific issues about the future of policing.

The Report contains 34 recommendations centred on providing ideas and a vision for the future of how this critical public service can be delivered.  This process was driven by the undeniable need to ensure that all Ontario communities can afford policing, along with all the other public programs and services that keep people not only safe, but healthy.  

I know that Al Spacek, the Task Force Chair and Matthew Wilson, AMO’s Senior Advisor will be discussing the recommendations and the themes in a bit more detail.  Let me focus on three priority recommendations.

Number one is interest arbitration.  I spoke about this issue at length yesterday so I wouldn’t belabor the point too much today except to say, it is our number one priority recommendation.  Labour costs are the main driver of police costs.

Number two is improving the quality of the existing governance and civilian oversight system.

Justice Morden wrote about governance issues in his report about the G20.  Let me quote from his report:

“Civilian oversight of our police is essential.  It acts as a check and balance against the legal powers society has given the police to enforce the law.  Effective oversight of the police is the way that the public and police remain partners in the preservation of public safety.  For the police to be effective in our communities, the public must have respect for those that perform the policing function.  The governance and accountability that civilian oversight creates work in tandem.”

We will speak more on this recommendation a little later.

And finally priority recommendation number three: Make legislative changes to permit the greater transfer of specific functions to civilians or other security providers where appropriate.

In the words of one presenter to the Task Force, why do we need a master mechanic to perform an oil change?  We have highly trained officers performing some basic functions.  Many of those functions are unrelated to criminal activity.  

The principal benefit of civilianization is that it allows freed up officers to fulfill their primary functions, including publicly visible activities, while civilian employees fulfill other more specialized functions.  Similarly, civilians currently earn about 75 percent of a sworn officer’s salary and because civilians might not be called upon to respond to an emergency, they likely have more time available to spend with a member of the public in need of assistance.

These are just three of the recommendations.  I would encourage you all to read and to consider the Report’s findings if you haven’t already.  

To achieve better outcomes, change may impact other municipal service areas and those related costs.  That too, is part of looking at the future of community safety and how it could be achieved.    

Let me close by saying this: We are a nation that includes the Mountie, the hockey player, the beaver, and maple leaf as something we identify with, that reflects us, that is a symbol of Canada.  

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police played a significant part in the development of Canada and remains a powerful part of our identity.  The same can be said of the Ontario Provincial Police and its history in the northern and rural parts of Ontario.  

On the whole, we consider police officers as key participants in our civil society, critical players who ensure the rule of law, and who uphold democratic values.  Police are woven into the fabric of our society.  We hold in high esteem those men and women who take on the duty and role of a law enforcement officer.  

It is because municipal leaders care so passionately about our officers and police services across Ontario, that we seek to improve the delivery of this critical public service.  Finding a solution is a shared responsibility involving municipal governments, police service boards, the policing community as well as the provincial and federal governments, and Ontarians.  Equally, implementing a solution to our current situation rests with all of the above.

Thank you.

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