Comfort level, not service level, may drive OPP decision


Brockville Police Service Deputy Chief Lee MacArthur, left, Insp. Scott Fraser and Chief John Gardiner at the contact committee meeting Monday.It may all come down to comfort level.

That's the conclusion one draws from Ontario Provincial Police officials when they discuss the merits – or even the outright desirability – of an “integrated” detachment over a stand-alone model in any Brockville policing contract.

By way of a reminder, Brockville's current OPP costing will result in two proposals: an integrated model, with Brockville the hub of an expanded Leeds County detachment, and a stand-alone detachment.

The latter option will be costlier than the first.

We may be getting ahead of ourselves. The costing is still in its early stages and the proposals won't be back until October under the OPP's timeframe.

Why should we even discuss whether we want an integrated or a stand-alone detachment when we haven't even decided to trade in our 181-year-old police force for the OPP?

Well, because in one respect we are not getting ahead of ourselves. Rather, we are just engaging in the same debate in a different way.

Staff Sgt. Cathy Bell, of the OPP's municipal policing bureau, said Wednesday a stand-alone model would perhaps replicate the kind of police force the city has now.

But she added an integrated model would likely deliver the same services more cost-effectively.

“The services the public would see would be the same,” she said. “These costings are rarely about services. They're about efficiencies.

“We all have to meet adequacy standards. How adequacy is met, it can vary.”

What she did not say, because in her position she would never out-and-out say it, is that, if citizens wouldn't notice a difference under an expanded Leeds detachment, then maybe our current policing model simply has too much stuff.

And costly stuff.

At Monday's OPP contact committee meeting, Brockville Police Chief John Gardiner outlined some of those items the municipal force currently has, which he says the city would lose under an integrated detachment.

They include a Brockville-based canine unit, two emergency response team (ERT) officers per platoon and the city's own marine unit.

What Staff Sgt. Bell won't outright say, Mayor David Henderson will.

To paraphrase his worship: “Why pay more for a stand-alone detachment when we can get the same services for less by sharing resources in an integrated detachment?”

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that, come October, the choice between a stand-alone and integrated detachment will be the same as the choice between an OPP contract or city police.

Pay less, and you'll hand over some police services to be shared Leeds-County-wide, having access to them (one hopes) when needed.

Pay more, and you will keep those services here, as well as operational control over them. If you choose this option, then there really will be little point, politically or financially, in changing uniforms.

And so it all comes down to comfort level. Do most Brockvillians feel more comfortable paying more in order to have a police force with its own identity, and control over all its resources, or are they more comfortable saving money, handing over some of that control and taking the 'Brockville' out of the 'Police Service'?

The devil is in the details, of course. But sometimes one has to chase the devil away and ask pure questions.