Town of St. Marys receives approval to contract with Stratford Police Service
The Town of St. Marys is moving forward with its plan to contract police services from the City of Stratford. The Town’s application to bring the Stratford Police Service to St. Marys was approved by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) on April 13 and by members of Council on April 25.
The decision to change providers followed an extensive review of policing alternatives that was undertaken by the Town in 2016. The review explored ways that the Town could enhance the service that is currently provided by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).
Through the review, the Stratford Police Service was identified as a possible alternative provider, given Stratford’s geographic proximity to St. Marys and the two municipalities’ history of sharing services. A proposal provided by the Stratford Police Services offered a number of service level improvements at a reduced cost, compared to what is currently offered by the OPP. The combined potential for enhanced service and cost savings prompted the Town to seek and gain approval from the OCPC and Council.
Under the Stratford Police Service’s new model, a dedicated officer will be stationed in St. Marys eight hours a day, five days a week, with an additional officer on patrol 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Having a St. Marys-specific officer on-hand at all times will help to ensure timely responses to police calls and allow for more proactive patrolling. By comparison, the OPP’s service commitment is to have an officer available to respond 24 hours per day, and this officer is not necessarily always stationed in town.
In addition, the Town of St. Marys will have access to all of the Stratford Police Service’s internal specialties, as well as those that are contracted from other police departments. The Town will also have the option to further increase service levels by employing cadets or bike patrols. To ensure that the Town has an opportunity to provide input on local policing priorities, the St. Marys Police Services Board will be replaced by a local Community Policing Advisory Committee that will meet with the Stratford Police Chief on a monthly basis.
While there will be an initial $308,584 in start-up costs to bring the Stratford Police Service to St. Marys, the annual operating cost of $929,953 will be less than the $1,155,089 the Town currently pays for the OPP. A portion of the money saved from switching to the Stratford Police Service will be funneled into a cost stabilization reserve that will be used in case of a major policing event in St. Marys.
The change in providers is projected to take effect at the end of 2017, when the Town’s contract with the OPP expires. The Stratford Police Service is expected to assume policing as of January 1, 2018. In the meantime, Town staff will be conducting contract negotiations with the City of Stratford, and meeting with the OPP and the Stratford Police Service to begin planning for the transition.