ALMAGUIN – The OPP say they’re working on becoming more efficient in order to give municipalities more bang for their buck.
“It is obvious there is more room for some efficiencies that we need to work on,” said OPP Superintendent Rick Philbin of the Municipal Policing Bureau. “But we are the best trained … We need to open this up and involve municipalities in the discussion.”
Philbin gave a presentation to municipal leaders during the District of Parry Sound Municipal Association meeting held Sept. 28 in South River in response to rapidly increasing policing costs.
“We were in turmoil last year,” said Philbin. “The commissioner said we did not communicate our billing very well.”
Philbin said in response to the commissioner’s input, the OPP has developed a more transparent and realistic billing procedure.
He said when the OPP began its first cost recovery program with municipalities in 1982 the contracts were negotiated on a five-year term. In 2011, the organization began using its new annual formula, which he says is more realistic. A new formula is being calculated October 5 for the upcoming 2013 term based on 2012 estimates.
In 2012, the average cost of a full-time first class constable was calculated at a cost of $119,362, including benefits and overtime. In 2010, the average cop cost $120,358.
Once you add the cost of operating expenses and support staff, Philbin said the average cost for each officer is $147,339 per year. The estimated costs are reconciled to actuals each year with municipalities receiving a reconciliation halfway through each year.
“It just gives municipalities an idea of where they sit,” explained Philbin, of the mid-year reconciliation.
According to Philbin, 90 per cent of the cost is associated with officers’ wages (with the average cost of a full-time uniformed officer valued at $87,240 in wages alone), their supervision, and the vehicles they’re using. The remaining 10 per cent covers everything else, including support staff, which he said has been streamlined.
“We’re making about the same amount as most municipal police departments, so I would say we’re pretty efficient,” said Philbin. “Our per capita costs are subsequently less than other police departments in Ontario and Canada.”
Philbin said in order to cut costs the OPP employs specialized civilians for non-policing jobs, many straight out of college with science degrees. He said before this system was in place, officers would be pulled off the road after five or more years to fill these positions, which was a waste of resources in firearms training and the like that weren’t needed when filling non-policing capacities.
Another cost-saving initiative is to have officers complete training online at their own detachments, rather than at headquarters.
“We still need on-the-ground training at headquarters for things like firearms,” said Philbin.
He said utilizing a centralized dispatch also saves money, as well as cutting back on fuel costs.
“Our cars are more fuel efficient than ever before,” he said, adding the OPP receive rebates on fuel purchased from certain companies.
“As a result, we’re passing that savings on to the municipalities,” he said.
The 2013 estimate per officer is 1.3 per cent lower than the cost in 2010, representing a savings of nearly $2,000 per officer per year.