'Categorical' refusal may matter more than delay


One could feel a certain sense of relief from the gallery, and a sense of frustration from the contact committee table, when discussion at Monday's meeting turned to the prospect of a moratorium on OPP costings.

When OPP Sgt. Mike Milner raised the possibility, even theoretical, of the resulting delay to Brockville's costing lasting a year, the raising of eyebrows caused a minor atmospheric disturbance.

After the meeting, there were grumbles from a councillor who shall remain nameless that this whole costing thing might be a waste of time.

And COPS leader Louise Severson seemed on the verge of triumphalism when she suggested council “do the right thing” and call the whole thing off.

A moratorium would create challenges for OPP supporters. Chief among these would be the prospect of a delay long enough to push the entire costing into the 2014 election season.

But this possible delay is by no means a death knell for the OPP costing. Not for the moment, at least.

In fact, if I were an OPP supporter, I'd be more inclined to worry about another little tidbit arising from Monday's teleconference.

Among his many responses to committee members' questions, Milner confirmed that, under an OPP contract, the city would not be allowed to run a “commercial CPIC business.”

The translation: no more revenues from criminal record checks.

When asked if that “No” is absolute, Milner replied: “Categorical, sir.”

The 2013 police budget calls for $750,000 in revenues from criminal record checks. That's a conservative target, since the record check revenues pulled in more last year, but police management acknowledge that revenue line item is never a sure thing.

Still, my guess is there are members of council who would prefer an uncertain revenue source to none at all. Faced with escalating police costs, be they under a municipal or OPP scenario, any little bit of revenue helps.

It's by no means a surprise that criminal reference check revenues would disappear under an OPP contract. City police supporters raised that possibility in arguing against an OPP costing in the first place.

OPP supporters would tend to argue about the fickleness of the record check revenues. The RCMP, for instance, has seemed poised to yank that whole revenue stream away from municipal police forces eventually.

But for now, should this year's revenues come in over budget just like last year's, or even on budget, the money argument could emerge as a key one for city police supporters – especially when faced with the OPP's “categorical” refusal to entertain the idea.