The president of the Ontario Provincial Police Association says if policing costs are causing financial hardships to municipalities, the province should help out.
Jim Christie spoke to reporters from community newspapers across the province via teleconference this week talking about policing costs and the eight percent wage increase officers are receiving this week.
The OPPA accepted a two-year wage freeze when the province was looking to slow wage increases in the public sector. But the OPP deal also included an eight percent increase once the two years was up.
The increase riled municipalities who foot the OPP bill. The province asked the OPP to come up with a better way of billing the municipalities as the wage increase comes into effect. That’s sparked fears of unreasonable increases. Municipalities in Lambton County have recently received their cost breakdown and they’ll face an over all increase in OPP costs of 7.78 percent. That’s at a time when the province is cutting the grant it provided to pay for policing.
Christie says there has been “misinterpretation of what’s happened the last couple of years” and that’s why the OPPA is on a publicity blitz.
“If you listen to some politicians the OPP is crippling the province,” says Christie adding many municipalities don’t pay more for policing (based on a percent of the overall budget) than before.
“We have to bring some truth to the conversation, policing is expensive; but it is half the cost of health and education…both essential services that cost a lot of money.
“OPP takes up two-percent of the provincial budget $1 billion – 35 percent of that comes from municipalities.”
And Christie says officers deserve to be paid as much as the highest paid department in the province, the Toronto Police Service. “I make no excuses for what a police officer makes in the province. It is one of the most challenging jobs in the province.”
Christie says there are a number of ways to reduce the cost of policing including reducing the number of forces in the province.
And he says if municipalities are having a hard time paying for policing, the province should be helping out. “The province should look at ways to help municipalities afford policing …if the costs have to go up…The province always have the opportunity to step in and assist.”