Thursday, November 15, 2018

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Opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the letter authors and not of The Meaford Independent.

Dear Editor,

A few weeks ago in your RUMOURS section you commented on recurring rumours about the lack of OPP policing in the Town of Meaford. You stated that these rumours are baseless, and that we could rest assured that we were being policed very well.

Yes and NO.

I heard these rumours twice, each time from persons with intimate knowledge of the subject.

I then went to the Town offices to see the Policing Contract Meaford had with the OPP. I was referred to the Meaford treasurer, who informed me, to my consternation, that Meaford does NOT have a contract, and does not have a Police Services Board. The treasurer further informed me that Meaford was being policed by RE-ACTIVE police service, rather than PRO-ACTIVE. But not to worry, that we are being policed as required under the Police Services Act.

The Police Services Act states:

(2) Adequate and effective police services must include, at a minimum, all of the following police services:

1. Crime Prevention

2. Law Enforcement

3. Assistance to victims of crime

4 .Public order maintenance

5. Emergency response

Neither re-active nor pro-active is mentioned in the Police Services Act. It simply states the police services that MUST be provided at a minimum.

With no contract, and no Police Services Board, the present Meaford town council is relying on the OPP responding to phoned-in complaints. The treasurer stated that by going without a contract, the Town was saving some $90,000 in officer salary.

On the surface of it, it looks as though Council has found a way to save money, while still receiving the minimum police services mandated in the Police Services Act. Let us look at what this looks like in reality. Before police officers start their shift, they are provided with information of crimes/suspects and other problems they have to be aware of in the County of Grey and beyond. They are then assigned their patrol areas. In every other municipality in Grey County, politicians have negotiated/contracted for a certain number of police officers to patrol their specific communities. Not so in the Town of Meaford. Meaford is the ONLY municipality in Grey County without an OPP Service Contract and the ONLY municipality without a Police Service Board.

OPP are duty-bound to cover provincial highways. We are fortunate (?) in Meaford to have a major transportation link, Highway 26, run through the centre of our town, providing visible police presence in the main business section whether Meaford has a contract or not. But what about our residential areas? The beautiful harbour and adjoining beaches? The tourist/camping areas?

With no designated patrols for the Town of Meaford, HOW are we getting the mandated Crime Prevention?

There is no better crime prevention tool than to have a Black and White make an appearance anywhere in the community at any time, day or night.

When my property/car insurance came up for renewal earlier this year, there was a whopping increase for both. Complaining to the insurance rep, I was advised that the rating for our area (postal code) had changed for the worse. Asking for specific reasons, I was informed that many risks are considered, with criminal/property/accident claims being the major part.

I have no proof that the lack of police patrols in our town has anything to do with these increases, but it provides food for thought.

The 2017 OPP policing cost for the Town of Meaford was $1,796,158.01. This does not include the cost of the OPP office of $60,000, which is not even accessible to the public.

With the OPP costing formula a true enigma, I would like to ask our candidates for Meaford council in October to take another look at how we could improve on policing in our town.

On an even more serious policing issue, special interest groups have been able to convince politicians that 'profiling' and 'carding' are discriminatory and must not be practised by our police.

If police cannot profile to fulfill their sworn duty of doing what the Police Services Act mandates them to do, we might as well disband our police services, BECAUSE the very definition of policing is to profile.

To draw a comparison with another profession, such as carpentry, would be to tell a carpenter that he cannot use any kind of saw in doing his work. This is insane.

In Ontario police can no longer 'card' a person when they are investigating or talking to him/her. It has been an extremely effective tool for solving and preventing crime in the past, because investigators/detectives had an idea who was around at the time and location where an offence had been committed.

This 'card' was only kept for a short time, if for no other reason that there was no point in keeping it if there was no way to connect the person to an investigation.

Anyone interested in how police in Ontario have been restricted/prevented from pro-actively policing our communities only has to look at Police Services Act, Ontario Regulation 58/16. I let this piece of legislation speak for itself.

As far as the future of policing is concerned, I can see some difficult times ahead for our officers and the communities they police, if the two senior governments do not accept a much larger part of the cost of policing. Especially with the upcoming legalization of cannabis and the effects of impairment.

While I realize that the cost of policing is an important factor for municipal councils, the action of Meaford town council to rely on 're-active' policing to save money, is short-sighted and irresponsible. There is a new majority government at Queen's Park. Our MPP is a member of this new regime. Let us impress on him, that there has to be a more reasonable sharing of the cost of policing between municipalities and the province.

Sincerely,

Karl Braeker, Meaford

Editor's Note: The municipality opted to go without an OPP contract in 2013 while there was debate about switching to the Owen Sound Police Service. As the OPP billing model was being overhauled, the municipality decided to continue without a contract until the new billing model had been finalized, which has just happened recently.


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