Report ‘exoneration,’ city police chief says

By Denis Langlois

Posted 1 hour ago

Owen Sound police Chief Tom Kaye says he hopes the results of an independent review of his department’s finances will put to rest any “innuendo and rumours” that the city’s police department is “mismanaged” or that spending is out of control.

“This is a complete exoneration of the accusations that were made,” he said, after the report by MPM Consulting/Hodgson Associates was presented to council.

Kaye said allegations of out-of-control spending were made during the recent municipal election campaign.

He said the financial review shows the police service is “well run and well managed.”

Consultants Moe Hodgson and Michael Mitchell, who have completed many reviews of municipal police forces in Ontario, said Owen Sound has the lowest percentage of overtime they’ve ever seen.

Kaye said cost savings can only occur if the number of staff is cut, which would force the department to close its headquarters at 4:30 p.m. each day, reduce the number of incidents police respond to in person and reduce patrol hours so police can type up reports.

City council passed a motion last July to request Owen Sound’s police board examine the $6-million policing budget to find budgetary savings.

The motion says police costs account of 25% of the city’s annual $22 million operating budget and “this amount is not sustainable in the short or long-term.”

A 43-page financial review, prepared by the Richmond Hill-based consultants, was included in Monday’s council package.

The report, which examines a 10-year period from 2000 to 2010, begins by saying Owen Sound Police Services provides an “exemplary level of policing service to the public” and “meets or exceeds all of the requirements contained in the Police Service Act of Ontario.”

It identifies few ways to cut costs and contained no recommendations, which the consultants were not asked to make.

“Most of the initiatives that can be taken to reduce costs or limit expenditure increases have already been implemented,” the report says.

Just over 87% of the police budget pays for wages and benefits, the report says. “None” of the non-payroll expenditures — such as training, building maintenance and equipment — “can be significantly reduced to generate long-term sustainable cost savings.”

The report identifies four possible ways to cut costs, but each option has a consequence:

• Reduce the workforce through attrition. Identified as the “least intrusive” way to cut costs. Potential savings of $95,000 per year.

• Reduce the size of platoons from a sergeant and five constables to a sergeant and four constables. Requires approval from the Ontario Civilian Police Commission. The city would have to pay severance costs to terminate officers. Would require a change in the department’s response policy, the report says. For example, officers would make onsite visits to fewer types of calls. Potential savings of $275,000 per year.

• Disband the civilian data entry unit and add to uniformed officers’ duties. Would significantly reduce on-patrol hours, the report says, and the number of hours the police headquarters can be open to the public. Department could lose a $30,000/year government grant. Potential savings of $340,000 per year.

• Transfer the city’s bylaw duties to the police department. Police managers think “a substantial increase in revenue could be attained” by doing so, the report says. Insp. Stephen MacKinnon is currently seconded to city hall as the manager of bylaws.

The report says the workload per officer in Owen Sound is 15% higher than the national average. An internal productivity study, released last month, said front-line officers are busy during their 12-hour shifts with just enough time to take a lunch break.

The report says the cost per capita for the police department in Owen Sound rose from $168 in 2000 to $301 in 2009.

It does not compare the per capita cost with other municipalities, saying those figures are often “misleading.”

The cost of policing was a main election issue in Owen Sound and the subject of an all-candidates debate last autumn.

Several candidate eyed the police budget as a possible way to cut costs and most candidates agreed that the city must look into sharing its police service with neighbouring municipalities to save costs.

The report will be discussed by the Owen Sound police board. Any recommendations will then be forwarded to council for consideration during budget talks.