This is a brief update on this month’s Council and Police Services Board meetings.
The February Council meeting was held on February 18, a week earlier than normal. There were two notable items involving Policing dealt with that night.
The first was a deputation by the Midland Police Services Board concerning their proposed 2014 budget for the Midland Police. The Board Chair informed Council that the Board would ultimately submit a 2014 budget increase of at least 3.7% following a 2013 increase of 5.6% – despite Council’s requirement that all Midland departments present both 0% and 2% budgets for consideration.
The Board Chair was combative when responding to questions from Councillors about what if anything the Board has done to attempt to deliver a budget that meets the targets every other Town department has met. The basic message was there was nothing the Board was prepared to do to change that situation now or in the future and if Council didn’t like it, then the Board would waste more tax money battling our own elected representatives at the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC).
We recognize budgets can sometimes be challenging and sometimes there is no instant fix. Fair enough, but what is the excuse for ignoring the same challenges year after year?
Our current system for Police oversight is so broken that nobody takes responsibility for protecting the public interest. A majority of the current Board members see themselves only as champions of Police Department leadership and not champions of the public interest. They should seriously consider whether it is fair to dump these kinds of increases on residents without earnestly trying to fix the problems.
The second notable item saw Council make a temporary appointment to the Police Services Board because Deputy Mayor Kramp is unable to act due to a complaint from the Board majority (nice way to silence someone you might not agree with). The discussion was interesting. Four Councillors thought it was just fine to leave Mayor McKay as the only elected member on the Board until Council later decided to make the temporary appointment. Then the same four thought it would be beneficial if one of them filled the position instead of Councillor Canning who might actually try to protect the taxpaying public. Ultimately Council appointed Councillor Canning by a narrow 5-4 vote.
That is not the end of the story however. The very next day, February 19, was the scheduled meeting of the Midland Police Services Board. Councillor Canning arrived to take his seat at the 4:00 pm meeting. About the same time, the Board Chair and 2 other Board members slipped out of the meeting room with the Police Chief and Board secretary to have a discussion which was not audio recorded. They then returned to the meeting room to announce the Board had decided it would not allow Councillor Canning to take his seat because they had not received any ‘official notification’ of his appointment.
The Board is legally bound to hold its meetings in public but they slip out of the meeting room and come back to announce they have made a decision. Some may think it’s OK to ignore the law as long as you’re the Police Services Board. But you sure have to wonder how those same people can insist others comply with invented rules about ‘official notification’ when they know perfectly well Councillor Canning was appointed to the Board the night before.
If the Police Services Board doesn’t stop playing games and playing fast and loose with the rules then it’s time they step aside. Midland simply deserves better.
Midland what are your views on the effectiveness of the Police Services Board? Do you feel they are focused on the right things? Is it time to put an end to this petty behaviour and start becoming more accountable to the people and to Council?
Well Midlanders, it’s your town and you’re the customer. Let’s hope the PSB wakes up in time to realize whose paying the freight.
As always, we welcome your opinions – comment below or join us on Facebook.
George Dixon and Roy Ellis
on behalf of Midlandcommunity.ca.