Thank you ‘Midland community’ for the many questions and comments we’ve received regarding the status of the OPP costing and next steps.
You may recall, after the OPP presented their costing, the Town’s review committee requested interested members of the community to submit their questions and considerations to the committee.
On your behalf, we prepared and submitted 13 questions (attached) which we believe are germane to the costing review and will assist the committee and Council in making the right decision for Midland, for the short and long term.
While some will view cost for identical services as the key consideration for choosing between Midland Police Services (MPS) and OPP, and while we believe the OPP competes very well by this measure, we also believe the decision goes beyond cost alone.
We have a serious problem with culture inside the MPS. An outside observer would be shocked at the outlandish 3-year severance packages guaranteed for the Chief and Inspector (a “poison pill” that could cost Midland around a million dollars!), obstructionism with Freedom of Information requests, continuing complaints to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC), and serious concerns of overwork, stress, absenteeism and reduced morale (and all the accompanying risks) raised by the Midland Police Association. These and other symptoms suggest that at some levels of the organisation, MPS harbours a culture of self interest and self preservation that does not benefit the residents of Midland and, apparently, has defied any remedy. We also suspect many career-oriented officers would welcome the greater advancement opportunities available with the OPP. We believe Midland Council must also take these qualitative issues into account in their decision.
Still, a rigorous, long-term cost analysis is objective and can be quantified in black and white. It must include considerations such as future ‘cost avoidance’ that requires looking beyond last month’s or last year’s spending alone.
Future costs that will be avoided under an OPP model include things such as legal fees for defending employee discipline matters, workplace harassment complaints, and for wage and benefit arbitration in the event the Board can’t freely negotiate a collective agreement with the Association. With OPP, Midland will no longer be on the hook for severance and termination payouts, paid suspensions or capital improvements after the transition period.
Further, according to information received from a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request served on the town of Midland, it is estimated that the town provides $70,000 of in-kind services to Midland Police (MPS) annually. This number covers activities like providing payroll support, accounting and other administrative services to MPS, to name but a few. This cost would go away with OPP!
Let’s come back to the implications of the Chief and Inspector employment contracts for just a moment (Question #7). The unprecedented severance clauses suggest that Midland’s 2010 Police Service Board, which put this agreement in place, lacked the capabilities and the competencies to conclude a fair and appropriate employment contract that also considered the interests of the taxpayer. While this cost is now “in the books”, how many similar exploits will Midland face in the future with its own small-town police service?
Let’s also dispel the notion that Midland could achieve greater efficiencies by taking on the law enforcement duties for neighbouring municipalities. It simply won’t happen. Even Barrie, with a population of 200,000, has the highest policing costs per household in Simcoe County. Wishful thinking around scaling-up MPS in any shape or form will still take us to an undesirable financial destination.
Well Midland, we should garner a response to these 13 questions and considerations over the next 4-8 weeks. We should have a better handle then on which choice will best serve the interests of Midland’s residents.
Questions for O.P.P. Costing Committee
1. The Midland Police Association has identified a staff shortage of 3 uniformed officers lost to attrition over the past 2 years. The O.P.P. has identified a uniformed staff shortfall of up to 4 officers based on call volume alone. Why weren’t these staff shortages addressed in the 2017 MPS Budget?
What will the total gross cost effect be on the police-operating budget to bring staffing levels up to those suggested by the O.P.P.?
Does the costing committee plan to interview leaders of the Association who obviously have a different interpretation of work demands, and its impact on member stress and community effectiveness?
Assuming the population and business footprint of Midland remains fairly static, can the current administration guarantee that 2017 staffing levels are adequate well into the foreseeable future?
2. Under the heading of cost avoidance, what was the interest arbitration costs in those years that the MPS Association and the Board couldn’t reach a successful negotiated collective agreement?
3. What is the current approximate value of MPS disposable assets (vehicles, boats, communications equipment, etc.) that will not be assumed by the O.P.P. should they take over policing duties, and how will this equipment be disposed of?
4. The O.P.P. proposal has identified that the current police headquarters falls below provincial standards regarding access, record keeping, holding facilities, and will require extensive renovations at a pre-determined cost. Can you please confirm our understanding that these upgrades must be performed regardless of who provides police services to the town?
5. The MPS has experienced firsthand the effect of having uniformed staff on long-term suspension/disability, etc. In what way does the Committee place a value on the ability of a small local force with limited resources relative to a larger organization which has greater depth in their respective ability to address & mitigate the effects of employee issues, as well as the non-monetary implications that accompany such situations?
6. While it has been acknowledged by the O.P.P. that they currently do not invoice municipal police forces for assisting in search and rescue, ETF response, homicide & forensic investigations, helicopter use, etc., they point out that the Police Services Act does allow for the provincial force to pass those costs along. Has the costing committee sought estimated costing for possible scenarios of what Midlands municipal force could be expected to pay for those situations should the provincial policy change?
7. While shocking and likely unprecedented in Police organizations of similar scope/size of Midland, both the Chief and the Inspector enjoy a 36-month severance package in the event they are displaced as a result of the disbandment of MPS. What is their personal responsibility to accept a position offered by the successor service and do they have a duty to mitigate.
8. What is the total anticipated severance costs associated with the disbandment of the Midland Police Service in 2017? And how would those costs be allocated?
9. The O.P.P. are self sufficient with respect to administrative functions such as payroll, benefit administration, A/P – A/R, asset management, etc., what is the value of similar services provided to the MPS by the Town of Midland?
10. When the transitional contract is fully mature, (3 years out from now), what are the anticipated annual costs for the O.P.P. to service Midland?
11. We believe this costing exercise should be looked at over an 8-10 year period given the obvious hard costs associated with the review, not to mention the disruptive soft costs such as the morale of the Association, the impact on the Community and the stability of the MPS leadership. Can you quantify the cost differential, with a keen eye on the historical trend of MPS and the new OPP costing model looking out 10 years?
12. What is the monthly/annual rental rate charged to the MPS by the Town of Midland for all public space occupied by the MPS, including parking and garage space?
13. Is the O.P.P. proposal a “take it or leave it” offer? We understand that ongoing costs are based on a Provincial model which is carved in stone, but are matters concerning one time transitional charges negotiable?