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OPP rejects 'lowball' label

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The provincial police will not “lowball' the cost of a contract with Brockville, then hike its rates when it's time to renew, an OPP representative told councillors Monday.

“I would respectfully suggest that that's not accurate,” Sgt. Michael Milner, an analyst with the Ontario Provincial Police's municipal policing bureau, told the city’s contact committee overseeing the current costing process.

Milner also said the OPP hopes to present council with a proposal in October.

Councillor and committee member Tom Blanchard asked Milner about the accusation, often repeated by OPP opponents and skeptics, that the force presents municipalities with a “lowball” figure to entice them into signing contracts, then increases rates upon renewal.

Blanchard cited other municipalities' experiences.

“I'm trying to figure out whether that big jump ... is it just the escalation of costs in that five-year period, or was there a weakness in the (costing) formula?”

Mayor David Henderson suggested labour costs have much to do with such escalations.

Milner would not discuss other municipalities' experiences.

“I can only speak to the proposals that I'm involved in,” said Milner. “They're accurate.”

The proposals are itemized so city officials can see exactly how the cost figures have been reached, he added.

“We have to pass on the costs that we have.”

OPP officials have said an “integrated” policing model, with Brockville hosting the headquarters of an expanded Leeds County detachment, is the most likely proposal the city will receive from the force.

At council's request, the OPP will also present a costing for a stand-alone city detachment. However, Milner's presentation reiterated that, in the OPP's view, “the integrated model is a more efficient usage of resources.”

Brockville Police Chief John Gardiner outlined some of the items the municipal force currently offers, which he says the city would lose were it to go the integrated route, as opposed to a stand-alone detachment.

They include a Brockville-based canine unit, two emergency response team (ERT) officers per platoon and the city's own marine unit.

Staff Sgt. Cathy Bell, of the OPP's municipal policing bureau, said the city would have access to these items when needed through an integrated detachment.

The stand-alone model would be “like an island without a bridge,” added Bell.

“You can function much like you do now, except with an OPP uniform.”

Milner praised the professionalism with which the Brockville police services board provided the OPP with data on such things as calls for service, overtime costs, work schedules and building costs.

When asked by Henderson, Milner said city front-line officers who meet OPP standards would likely remain in Brockville under an OPP contract, where they would be guaranteed three years in this community.

But they would likely be able to stay here longer than that, Milner suggested.

“We don't transfer people around very much anymore,” he said. “It's very expensive.”

Should Brockville switch to the OPP, the city would likely end up with the cost of disposing of its equipment, Milner said.

"It's yours to do with... We don't buy a lot of stuff normally," said the sergeant.

Members of the pro-city-police advocacy group Citizens Offering Police Support (COPS) attended Monday, filling much of the audience section of the main council chamber.

While the contact committee will meet with city officials next month, Henderson also hopes to set up a public information session on the OPP costing during a council meeting in September.

Should the OPP proposals come in on schedule in October, it would start the more arduous process of debating the merits of switching from the municipal police to an OPP contract.

FACT BOX:

OPP COSTING

Brockville is now involved in what will likely be a months-long process to determine whether the city would save money by replacing its 180-year-old police force with an OPP contract.

Council voted in April to seek the OPP costing. Council's "contact committee," entrusted with the nuts-and-bolts discussions surrounding that costing, met for the second time with OPP officials on Monday.

 

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