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WHAT THE CONSULTANT HEARD

In setting up the interviews, all those canvassed were informed of the purpose by the consultant: to help the Hope City Police Service develop a strategic plan. What follows is the report offered to the Chief at the end.

The following groups of people were interviewed:

• Chief and all direct reports

• Association president

• Chair, Police Service Board

• Chief Administrative Officer, Hope City

• Chair, Hope City Chamber of Commerce

• Citizens against Racism Community Group

• President, East End Residents Association

• Hope City Citizens for Responsible Government

Chief Administrative Officer of the City

In practical terms such as the formal budget, the Police Service is a department of the city. Therefore, the CAO has responsibility for it. This is clouded by the role of the Police Service Board, a provincially mandated oversight body. This is part of the municipal reality of the province, and the CAO is no stranger to it. However, the dynamic can sometimes create amazing tensions. His first concern about this interview was what this plan would look like in relation to Hope City's plans. However, he also realizes that working together is ultimately smarter than working apart or at odds. So, he weighed in.

The CAO noted that the demographic shift in Hope City has only just begun. In spite of the lack of some services for recent arrivals, new residents still keep coming. He sees some distinct ethnic communities as growing and developing their own infrastructures and identities. Housing starts, especially for townhouses and apartments, are growing. There has also been an increase in the number of youths in these communities. Birthrates in these ethnic communities are generally higher, and there is evidence of that already. In some of the schools in those areas, the majority is now from these recently arrived families. This is creating pressure for more schools and also adjustments in school programming. The issue of English as a second language among the older cohorts of these groups is emerging as a service issue. They hardly use the 311 civic services line.

When asked about city plans that might affect police, the CAO noted that several new major subdivisions were in the works or already approved. The Police Service will have to expand to provide adequate policing to those expansion areas. He recognizes that this will stress resources to adequately police these areas. He was not certain if the development charges[1] would adequately cover the cost of the increase needed for public services. He thought that the Police Service needed to factor this into its capital planning; for example, would a new station be needed? His concerns extended to question whether the emergency services communications infrastructure was going to be sufficient.

The high-use stress on highway infrastructure will mean construction on both of the two main north-south routes over the next two years. There will also be work on downtown main streets, including a long-term restoration of the main city square through which most of the downtown traffic now is routed. The CAO was concerned whether police were up to speed on the implications. This involves work by both the city and the province.[2]

The CAO noted that several city councilors want to develop a new strategy for the downtown core, which is plagued by many of the usual problems of lower retail presence, some gang activity, and certainly a general degradation. He feels the Police Service needs to come up with some cost-effective safe street strategies or face pressure from both the City Council and neighborhood groups along with retailers. There is certainly a desire to get more condo development downtown.

It was hard to keep the CAO off the issue of money in general. He feels that, while the Police Service takes up a major portion of the municipal budget, there is very little he can do about affecting what it will look like. The City Council does not feel there is adequate control either at the budget time or as the budget is managed over the year. Of course, the City Council theoretically has ultimate control over the budget, but it often feels it is being handed a fait accompli and that the Police

Service Board and the Chief are not really team players, willing to take their hit along with the others. Whether it is the Police Service Board or the Chief, he does not know, but he feels left out of the loop and is often surprised at budget time. He feels it would be easy to say that the budget is too high and that the police get theirs while other services suffer, but he is more annoyed at the process than opposed to good policing. One example he cited was the number of years that overtime budgets had been exceeded, forcing a return for funding to the City Council. He could see one or two years and for exceptional circumstances, but he sees a pattern of poor management here – his words. He also noted that this preceded the current chief, but he has not seen much sign of any change. Also, he believes that the policing model, as he calls it, will only drive costs up more. Why are the Police Service Board and the Chief not pushing new ways of doing things?

The CAO also noted that, while there were Provincial Adequacy Standards for police, Hope City did not appear to be following all of them. For instance, he noted that the Police Service did not have a business plan. He thought that would go a long way to making it more credible. He also had a few figures at hand, based on a comparison of most of the cities in the province:

• While the provincial clearance rate[3] on violent crime was about 74 percent, Hope City's was only 53 percent.

• While the provincial median for total crime rate was 5,900 per 100,000, in Hope City it was only 5,300.

He asked how these two facts squared. If you have a lower crime rate, surely you should expect a better clearance rate.

The CAO was concerned that the increase in cross-jurisdictional police teams would lead to problems of financial control. He observed that Hope City had been a big player in the recent regional efforts on biker gangs that the province led. He noted, however, that there seemed to be a disproportionate number of resources devoted to this and very little compensation from the regional funding that was available from the province. He worried that there was not good costing and an aggressive effort to recoup funds to pay the bills. He also wondered about tracing costs and responsibilities for such horizontal-type work. Although he noted that he was no expert on these issues, he also pointed out that quite a number of municipalities across the country are complaining about what they see as the federal downloading of costs for policing in new crime areas such as terrorism and cyber crime.

  • [1] Development charges are charges paid by developers that are used to pay for the majority of the cost of new capital projects required as a result of growth (e.g., new roads, parks, trails, community centers, fire stations, etc.). Note that this does not cover additional operational costs, which are to be recovered by taxation of the residents.
  • [2] To date, no formal notification of next year's street construction plans have been received in the Police Service.
  • [3] Clearance rate is calculated by dividing the number of crimes for which a charge is laid by the total number of crimes recorded. Clearance rates are used by various groups as a measure of crimes solved by the police.
 
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