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Quinte West wants more say over how much they pay the OPP

By Tyson Leonard

Quinte West is looking towards an Ontario mayors’ coalition to help them fight rising police costs.

The Quinte West police services board unanimously decided to contribute $1000 to join the Mayors Coalition on Affordable, Sustainable, Accountable Policing.

The coalition is a group of representatives from a number of different municipalities across Ontario. The group’s primary concern is the rising cost of OPP services in municipalities. The coalition says on their website the cost of police services is no longer sustainable.

Quinte West councilor Jim Alyea, chair of the police services board, said he is concerned with the cost of policing and how much say Quinte West has in the process.

“It needs to be more transparent and open,” said Alyea.

Alyea said he hopes the coalition will have some input into how municipalities are billed by police.

“Many of the municipalities are concerned they don’t have a part in the negotiation process,” said Alyea.

Rick Philbin, bureau commander of the OPP contract policing section, said the OPP is trying to make sure the costing formula used by the OPP is transparent.

The OPP website says 322 municipalities receive OPP services. Quinte West is one of those municipalities.

“Over the last few years the cost of policing percentage-wise has gone up higher than the cost of inflation,” said Alyea.

Philbin said the rise has been caused by higher wages for uniformed officers.

“(Police costs) are on the rise primarily because of salaries,” said Philbin.

Municipalities who employ the OPP can expect the cost of policing to rise. After a two-year wage freeze, the OPP are getting an 8.5-per-cent pay hike in 2014. The raise is part of a clause in the OPP’s contract that guarantees they remain the highest paid police force in the province.

Quinte West spent $9 million on policing costs in 2011. Most of the money, $7.8 million, was spent on salaries and benefits.

Alyea said some police services are easier to negotiate with than others.

“With the OPP (municipalities) just get handed a bill,” said Alyea.

The coalition plans to fight rising costs by achieving either a partnership with the province, allowing municipalities to have more control over policing costs, or have the province pay for the OPP completely.

Alyea said that even municipalities with municipal police forces are seeing their costs rise.

“It’s not just with the OPP, policing in general is getting to cost more for all municipalities, whether its municipal police or the OPP,” said Alyea.

Last year Toronto police received an 11.5-per-cent raise over four years.

Belleville also contributed $1,000 to join the coalition despite having its own police force.

The coalition says on their website that municipalities with their own police forces are encouraged to join because the cost of local police is intertwined with rising OPP costs.

Belleville police operating costs rose by $1.3 million to $13.5 million between 2008 and 2010.

The coalition sent out letters to mayors across Ontario asking for $1000 to cover administrative fees such as, travel expenses, public relations funding, and funding for lobbying. The $1000 is meant to be a one-time fee.

Alyea said the city isn’t doing anything else to fight rising police costs and they are just going to wait and see how the coalition carries forward.