Police salary budget pressures: Is there more to the story?

Police salary budget pressures: Is there more to the story?
Posted on June 26, 2013 | Ottawa Taxpayers' Advocacy Group | Written on June 26, 2013
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Letter type:
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Dear Ottawa Taxpayers,

 Over the last several months we have all listened to complaints from members of Ottawa City Council and the Police service Board about arbitration and the impact of escalating wages and benefits.

While we have been actively advocating for similar reforms for several years, the fact is that pointing at salaries and benefits as the source of police budget pressures is at the very least, disingenuous and could be a bit of a red herring when it is put into context. This consistent approach has several holes in it and it's about time we explore the areas that are not being explained to taxpayers in Ottawa.

Front line staff requirements

Anyone who has been involved in a crime can attest that nothing short of a highly trained Police Officer will suffice in times of emergency. However, not all positions require a fully trained police officer.

OTAG has identified 49 such positions within the Ottawa Police Services that should not require six figure salaries and should be one of the considerations with respect to compensation pressures:

1. Enforcement Of Non Commercial Incidents (Natural Resources / Conservation Authority)

2. Identity Theft  & Fraud Investigation

3. Police Stations Facilities Maintenance

4. Community - Prevention & Awareness

5. Evidence Control

6. Electronic Records Control

7. Alarm Management

8. Cheques Scams

9.   Lottery Scams

10.  Charitable Organization Scam

11.  Phishing Scam   

12.  Computer Fraud

13.  Corporate Fraud

14.  Credit Card And Debit Card Fraud

15.  Fraud Against Seniors

16.  Identity Theft Lost Or Stolen Wallet

17.  High Tech Crime And Internet Child Exploitation

18.  Social Assistance (Welfare) Fraud  

19.  Online Bullying

20.  Spam Email & Objectionable Web Content

21.  Hacking

22.  Professional Standards Section

23.  Compliment  

24.  Complaints

25.  Disciplinary Hearings And Decisions Property 

26.  Retail Robbery Prevention 

27.  Personal Robbery And Swarming Prevention Tips

28.  On-Line Purchases

29.  Sale Of Items  

30.  Court Liaison  

31.  Traffic Section- Collision

32.  Integrated Road Safety Program

33.  Bicycle Safety

34.  Infant And Booster Car Seats Group

35.  Motorcycle Riding Tips

36.  Winter Driving Tips

37.  School Bus Safety

38.  New And Alternative Vehicles

39.  Insurance Bureau Of Canada  

40.  Tickets

41.  E-Warnings

42.  Electronic Ticketing

43.  Set Fines

44.  Traffic Complaints

45.  Underwater Search And Recovery Unit  

46.  Victim Crisis Unit

47.  Victim Crisis Unit Success Break And Enter 

48.  9-1-1 Communications Centre

49.  Crime Related Comm-Website-Media

Revenue Stream

As taxpayers it's easy for us to get angry about high public servant salaries, politicians sometimes exploit this based on their agendas and their perceived naivety of the electorate. We cannot be expected to understand the intricacies of Public policy (because we are not quite as educated as they are) so it's easy to throw the cops under the double decker bus knowing they will get the reaction they want. But, the smart taxpayer understands the dynamics involved and is usually skeptical of outlandish claims.

Take revenue as an example, I have not seen the word revenue in any media report associated with the police budget pressures. As taxpayers in the City of Ottawa, we should be wondering out loud why we pay the crown every time we get a speeding ticket. We need to be concerned about how much of these returns to city coffers and whether there is an opportunity to get more from the province. Why is the subject of Ottawa Police Service revenue off the table with taxpayers?   

Federal/Provincial Transfer payments

 In a few short days it will be time to party on July 1st. This causes an incredible budget pressure by way of the fact that Ottawa Police will be required for a "Canada" day function. While the Federal Government does what it can to help after the fact, the funding model is very inconsistent and OTAG believes it may actually be abused. It is our belief that the RCMP should be given proper leadership responsibilities and it should be their budget, not the cities, that pays for these events. If they require additional staffing they are welcome to contact the Police Association for OPS officers that are interested in overtime. This type of approach will level the playing field with other municipalities and should allow for better budgeting of events such as G8, G20 and visiting dignitaries, etc.

Business Case for OPP

Obviously a long shot, but our City council should always be privy to a cost comparison for Provincial Police Services. There are a number of municipalities that have been forced into this and there are likely very good reasons. The taxpayers of Ottawa deserve some transparency here in order to have faith in our police service.

Summary

There is no question that salaries and benefits are a huge obstacle for a city budget that is only allowed to grow within two percent a year. OTAG has been raising the white flag on this for several years but it has fallen on deaf ears. The elephant in the room has transformed into a mammoth in the closet and the city has little recourse now, too little too late. Arbitration does nothing to protect the citizens of Ottawa and the unelected arbitrator does not answer to the taxpayers here either.

But, I am not sure that our councilors are being very forthcoming with the measures they have taken to tackle the other hurdles that are glaring at all of us. It was only 6 months ago that they voted in favor of OC Transpo's 10 percent increase in overtime for 2013, with no debate whatsoever despite OTAG’s pleading at the time. How can we complain about Police salaries while giving our bus drivers a winning lottery ticket at the same time? If I was the arbitrator reading about the generous transit package from last year which cumulatively is as much as 12 percent hike over the 4 and a half year term, I would tell the police board to go fly a kite. I may even slip in the word Hypocrite somewhere in my ruling.

Today we learn about the Police services plan to Take on debt to pay for repairs to aging facilities, a rumored $123 million. As taxpayers we need to appreciate that this adds to the already bulging debt from their unfunded liabilities. Pensions, unused sick pay, dental and health insurance will all rear their ugly heads in no time flat.

Municipal politicians need to talk to their voters about the whole picture, not just the controversial stuff. Some of us actually understand all of the big words.

Kevin MacDonald, President
OTAG

 

About The Author

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Constantly searching for innovative ways to keep property taxes in check.

Comments

Taxpayer

The list misses out the most important thing. Compensation to victims of police violence. Every year over 30 million dollars is paid out to keep victims of police violence quiet and they are shut up with "confidentiality agreement" clauses.
Also Vern White's management practices needs to be examined and questions should be asked as to why he purged the civilian members in his office and replaced with police officers earning 6 figures to sit at a desk when they should be on the street.

Danny Handelman

The portion of OC Transpo which is funded by property taxpayers is approximately half of the municipal budget for the police, even though, on a day-to-day basis, OC Transpo provides much greater benefits to the residents of the city of Ottawa, especially taking into account the fact that crime rates have been in decline since the 1970s, and the municipal budget for roads is approximately equal to the municipal budget for roads.

Danny Handelman

That should read "municipal budget for roads is approximately equal to the municipal budget for the police".

Ashley Carlson

Hey, thanks for writing this up. I've been looking at several blogs to find something like this. Do you by any chance have a contact email that you could share? I would like to contact you directly.

Regards
Ashley
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