OPP commissioner says he understands fiscal challenges of policing
Ontario’s top cop says he understands the price of policing puts smaller municipalities in a tough spot. OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis made a local stop Tuesday. It was his first visit to the region since he took on his new role in August.
Ontario’s top cop says he understands the price of policing puts smaller municipalities in a tough spot.
OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis made a local stop Tuesday. It was his first visit to the region since he took on his new role in August. He held a news conference to get to know local media and answer any questions regarding the province’s police force.
Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs criticized the OPP about its five per cent wage increase during a January Thunder Bay Police Services board meeting earlier in January. The province proposed a two-year wage freeze, but then approved salary hikes for the OPP.
That puts smaller municipalities that use the OPP as its local force at a disadvantage when trying to balance their police services operating budget, he said.
"I don’t think it is very responsible for the government to be saying that they are going to curtail nurses and teachers from getting a raise for two years and then go to the other sector and give them five per cent," Hobbs said following the January meeting. "It just doesn’t make sense to me when you’re talking about fiscal responsibility."
On Tuesday, Commissioner Lewis said he knew the wage increase would place municipalities in a tough spot, but it wasn’t his decision. The Ontario Provincial Police Association negotiated with the Ministry of Government Services and they decided the outcome of the raise.
While some provincial organizations have a wage freeze now, the OPP won’t be able to go to the negotiation table with the provincial government for another salary increase until 2014.
He said municipalities will have to negotiation with the province to sort out any difficulties.
"We still have to have a minimum amount of people to make ends meet and to deal with the local issues," Lewis said. "In a perfect world, people could say couldn’t you give us a deal because we’re hurting. Well, how do you do it? Somebody has to pay that money."
Municipalities aren’t bound to the same salary freeze as the OPP and could have several wage increases, he added.
Lewis said he wanted change the perception municipalities have of the OPP. Residents’ believe that if they call the OPP officers wouldn’t come and often turned to neighbouring municipalities for help, he said.
"We kind of get viewed as the bad boy because it’s like we’re big brother coming in and taking over," Lewis said. "They would call Winnipeg police for example. Who’s paying for that? We would do it for free. That’s what we do, we’re the provincial police. We’re funded to do that.
Whether municipalities want to look at us as an option or not is their choice, but I don’t get involved in that in an aggressive way."
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