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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Chatsworth To Make Police Services Decision Next Month

Chatsworth | by Matt Hermiz  

Timeline outlined at recent public meeting on West Grey Police costing proposal.

Chatsworth Township continues to move through its process in considering a switch from Ontario Provincial Police to West Grey Police services.

A firmer timeline of when Chatsworth council will make its decision was outlined at a recent public meeting at the Williamsford Community Centre on the potential police services change.

According to the Township's CAO Patty Sinnamon, a report will come to council on Oct. 16 and then a final decision will be made at a Nov. 20 meeting.

Both West Grey Police Chief Rob Martin and Grey Bruce OPP Detachment Commander Inspector Martin Murray were on hand at the public meeting Sept. 19.

Chatsworth council is considering a five-year contract proposal from West Grey Police to provide police services as its current agreement with the OPP expires Dec. 31, 2020 -- and requires one-year notice to terminate.

Sinnamon explained at the public meeting the cost per household in Chatsworth for OPP services in 2019 is $321. 

The estimated annual cost per household under the proposed contract from West Grey Police Services is $268, she said. The West Grey proposal is also a fixed-rate contract for the term, while OPP service costs could increase annually.

The estimated savings over five years for Chatsworth taxpayers would be $1.2-million under the West Grey proposal, Sinnamon said.

West Grey's proposal includes one officer in Chatsworth patrolling 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Immediate back-up officers will deploy from West Grey zones as needed, West Grey Police Chief Martin explained.

Chatsworth Mayor Scott Mackey said in an interview the current OPP contract also pays for the same, one officer patrolling 24/7. But, he does note the OPP have a higher amount of visibility as the detachment is located in Chatsworth. Under the West Grey proposal, a detachment would not be located in the township.

"We're paying for one with the OPP," Mackey said. "But, we see a lot more than one."

Insp. Murray said the OPP Municipal Policing Bureau looked at why the West Grey proposal was substantially cheaper on its face, and claimed it's because it relied on billable calls for service.

For example, Murray said in 2016 there were 808 calls for service in the West Grey costing proposal, but there were actually over 2,800 calls that required either administrative support or had a police officer be involved in their proactive work.

Mayor Mackey said township staff will take a closer look at this in the coming weeks. However, West Grey Police

Chief Martin did note the proposal has already been made and West Grey is exposed for any cost overages that may arise over the five-year term.

One resident asked both Murray and Martin: if cost wasn't on the table, what is one compelling reason why you think Chatsworth should choose your force to be its service?

Martin said he likes the community focus of West Grey Police. He likes that officers are out and about and engaged in the community.

Murray simply said "capacity". He stressed the OPP has the capacity and resources to respond to whatever happens in Chatsworth.

West Grey Police Chief Martin noted they can access OPP resources when necessary under the service's Section 7 agreement with the OPP.

In an email, OPP spokesperson Carolle Dionne explained Section 7 of the Police Services Act allows a municipal police board to request OPP assistance under a special agreement.

She said OPP has these agreements with many police services, and the services listed in the agreement are different for each as they are based on the needs of the police service.

Dionne notes the Police Services Act allows for the OPP to recover for the costs encountered under this agreement, however, no costs have been recovered to date.

West Grey Police Const. Cory Trainor said in an email their Section 7 agreement with OPP covers tactical, canine, explosives disposal, underwater search and recovery, public order, major incident command, forensics and surveillance.

He added there are also provincial services West Grey Police have access to the OPP provides as well, such as helicopters and behavioural sciences. 

"All of these services are provided to the municipality at no extra cost to the taxpayers," Trainor said.

Trainor noted West Grey Police also has other shared resource agreements with nearby municipal police partners and an agreement with Hanover fire for water rescue as well.

Const. Trainor added their service assisted OPP in Chatsworth with 20 calls in 2016, 20 calls in 2017, 27 calls in 2018 and 33 calls thus far in 2019.

Mackey said Chatsworth council wants to ensure it gets this right, and encourages as much community input as possible prior to their decision in November.

"It's going to be whatever the public wants, is what I hope council lands on," Mackey explained. "I hope to get that feedback. And we'll vote in accordance with the majority of the people."

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