St. Marys Town Council votes on alternative policing options

Following a public meeting on January 10, Town Council unanimously voted in favour of seeking approval from the Ontario Civilian Police Commission to bring the Stratford Police Service to St. Marys. The decision was based on the findings of a review of alternative policing options undertaken by the Town in 2016.

The review was initiated in response to concerns about the level of service currently provided by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). The review explored ways that the Town could increase service levels, while continuing to fulfill its legislative responsibility to provide policing. The cost of police service was also considered, though it was not the main focus of the analysis.

The review offered two viable options for policing in St. Marys: the Town could continue to work with the OPP, or it could adopt a different method of policing, pending Provincial approval. Presented with these options, the Town asked the Stratford Police Service to submit a proposal to provide policing in St. Marys.

The Stratford Police Services’ proposal offered a number of service level improvements at a reduced cost, compared to what can be provided by the OPP. A dedicated officer for St. Marys would be stationed in Town eight hours a day, five days a week, with an additional officer on patrol 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Town would also have access to all of the Stratford Police Service’s internal specialties, as well as those that are contracted from other police departments. Finally, the proposal would allow the Town the flexibility to increase service levels on as-needed basis without incurring significant costs.

The service improvements outlined in the Stratford Police Service’s proposal are available through the OPP as contract enhancements, but at a higher cost. In fact, the Stratford Police Service’s model is less expensive than the OPP’s overall, even when initial start-up costs are considered. The savings from a switch to the Stratford Police Services would be funneled into a cost stabilization reserve that would be used in case of a major policing event in St. Marys.

Council’s decision to apply to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission for approval to hire the Stratford Police Service was based on the increased level of service and reduced annual costs outlined in the proposal. The Town will be making an immediate application to the Commission and Council is hopeful for an answer within the first quarter of 2017.

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