High cost of police and fire protection

The major issue with Police and Fire is that together they consume 40% of Cobourg’s total budget.

Cobourg crime rates have fallen for years; Fire incidents have declined for decades; but – according to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (not a rash group), Police spending grew at three times the rate of inflation in the 10 years to 2011. In that period, they say Police salaries increased by 40% while the average for non-Police occupations increased by 11%. It didn’t stop in 2011. The Association says Ontario has 39% of the Canadian population, but pays 48% of the total Canadian Police spending. Our Fire department has pay-equity with Police.

The result is that on average, first level uniformed Police & Fire workers now costs you over $130,000 each in pay and benefits. How do you think that compares in this community to private sector workers with equivalent education, knowledge and experience?

We do not have an issue with the quality or competence of Cobourg Police and Fire workers. We assume the individual protection workers are dedicated and good at their job.

It is frustrating for everyone locally, because Council has far less authority to manage & control Police and Fire than with all other Town departments. Because of a dysfunctional, chain of control from Chief to the local Police Service Board, to Council to a biased Arbitration Board to the provincial Ministry. It seems no one actually manages a Police Chief. You have to hope you get a good one & Cobourg seems to have done that.

Your taxes pay for the services, but the only authority Council has is to accept or reject the total Police budget, but not to change the spending or priorities. Council has somewhat more influence over the Fire department, but when they disagree on spending, it must go to arbitration, which is the case right now.

When the Police budget goes to arbitration, the criteria is not the local crime rates or the economic condition of the Town, it is the recent highest settlements made in other municipalities. It is called the ‘leapfrog’ criteria.

Even the Association of Police Service Boards and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and our Mayor say the system is flawed and unsustainable. They all always say ‘unsustainable’, but it keeps being sustained. Either your taxes must increase or other services and causes must receive less.

There are many sub-issues including:

  • Simple fire inspections don’t happen because only $130,000 personnel are allowed to do them
  • Police service response calls, as reported in the media, average less than 1 per day per officer
  • Some of us have never seen a Police person walking downtown
  • Duplication or triplication of services when Paramedics, Fire, and Police respond to 911 medical calls that need a Paramedic

We don’t have a lot of answers, but we will be trying to pursue them and we will be lobbying locally and provincially.

Attached is a Toronto Star article about policing costs and waste: Toronto Police Consultant KPMG Report