Northumberland County Council Hears Two Important Points on Policing Study

In City Hall

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Two important points were made at Northumberland County council’s April meeting on its Northumberland Police Services Review.

One, the process is in very early stages, with a draft proposal not slated to be presented to council until later this year.

Two, the firm engaged for the process, StrategyCorp, is confident it can prepare a thorough study in spite of both the Town of Cobourg and the Cobourg Police Services Board having passed motions not to co-operate with this initiative.

Attending remotely from Warkworth, StrategyCorp Engagement Principal Sabine Matheson mentioned media reports that placed the study at a far more advanced stage than it is. And Warden Brian Ostrander spoke of his recent CBC Ontario Morning interview, where he had to clarify that it is still in the data-gathering process.

It was undertaken with the thought that – with the county population scheduled to hit 122,000 by 2051 – it would be wise to look ahead and see if one policing entity (rather than the current three) might be better. Though, as Matheson stressed, the final say for any local municipality will be determined by that municipality.

“There are different offerings, and it’s not surprising the offer you get from a local service is truly local. It’s going to tend to have a local sense, a local touch and feel and control, and there’s advantages to that,” Matheson said.

“The OPP can offer officers a career that has far greater variety and also you can attract a far different pool of people. You can accommodate them in an organization that’s big enough to let them grow.”

With Cobourg and Port Hope municipal forces as well as the OPP, Matheson continued, “it does not make sense to have three different services serving Northumberland’s population with headquarters all within 11 or 12 km. of each other.”

Scenarios that may result could include retaining the status quo, some kind of amalgamation for a force that would serve all or part of the county, or an external option like contracting with a neighbouring police force (or possibly even the OPP) for this service.

Each will be evaluated for advantages and disadvantages, with examinations of cost implication and quality of service.

“The urban problems we used to associate with the big centres are, sadly, all over Northumberland today, and policing is a bigger challenge than it has ever been,” Matheson stated.

Areas for review will include capital (costs and inventory), infrastructure maintenance and upgrades, personnel costs and resources, equipment and technology, executive and administration support, cost offsets (such as income from fines, grants and services like criminal records checks), performance and workload, and governance and oversight.

“There’s far more to policing than you can put in just an Excel spreadsheet,” the consultant said, though costs will form a key part of investigations. As well, there will be consultations and engagements with appropriate players and community members, plus discussions with the three current service providers.

Cobourg Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty – attending in the absence of Mayor Lucas Cleveland – asked how this might be done in the face of votes in Cobourg not to co-operate.

Matheson said they would be open to guidance from council on how to navigate that barrier, but expressed confidence that public documents and records that are already available would give them enough data to pursue the project – though the finished product will carry a metaphorical asterisk to indicate that Cobourg data are based on research rather than in-person assistance.

Though respectfully requesting better co-operation, Matheson continued, “we are good at working with people, and also good at taking no for an answer.

“I hope you can feel the good will coming through, and we are professional enough that we can do what we have to do.”

Deputy Warden Olena Hankivsky wanted confirmation that the policing concerns expressed by members of Alderville First Nation will be part of the study.

“We would communicate with anyone this council indicated we ought to, and certainly the Nation would be on our list of people who would be potentially affected by any sort of recommended changes. I would certainly welcome that opportunity,” Matheson replied.

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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