'Let's be honest, some
municipalities have enjoyed unrealistically low policing costs'
Posted February 12, 2014
by Superintendent Rick Philbin
There is currently a healthy and important debate underway about the
cost of policing in Ontario and future sustainability. Part of that
discussion involves how the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) delivers
police services to 324 municipalities and our current billing model,
which is under review. In the interest of contributing to informed
debate, here are five things everyone who lives in an OPP-policed
municipality should know.
1. All municipalities must provide policing services to their
constituents. They can do this in a several ways. Just one of these is
contracting services from the OPP under Section 10 of the Police
Services Act (PSA). A municipality may also: establish a police
service; enter into an agreement with one or more other municipal
councils to constitute a joint police service board; enter into an
agreement with one or more councils to amalgamate their police
services; or contract services from an adjacent police service (a
police service that shares a political boundary with the contracting
If none of these choices are exercised, policing services are provided
by default by the OPP under Section 5.1 of the PSA. Municipalities have
these policing choices and many decide on the OPP for a variety of good
reasons. I am pleased to report that OPP-policed communities report a
high level of satisfaction with our services.
2. Provincial regulations require the full and fair cost recovery from
municipalities for OPP services. The OPP and the Ministry of Community
Safety and Correctional Services are in the midst of a Billing Model
Review that will result in a fairer, more transparent and less complex
process - something many municipalities have demanded. The total
revenues recovered under the new model will still be solely cost
recovery, but some municipalities will pay more and some will pay less.
3. The Provincial Auditor General has also recommended that the Ontario
Provincial Police should simplify its costing and billing methods.
He also said the OPP should make the billing and costing methods more
transparent and "address the issues that result in municipalities
paying different rates" (2012 Provincial Audit). In 2015, under
the proposed billing model an estimated base cost per household of $260
would be charged along with a cost for Calls for Service. OPP-policed
municipalities that currently pay lower than $300 per household should
see their policing costs rise; municipalities that currently pay more
than $400 per household should see their policing costs drop.
Let's be honest, some municipalities have enjoyed unrealistically low
policing costs with the OPP for many years, while others have paid much
higher per household due to a complex billing process. Addressing this
discrepancy is the right thing to do, although we acknowledge that the
transition for the municipalities who will experience rising costs will
be difficult. The Ontario government is considering ways to lessen the
financial impact during the transition to a new billing model.
4. The OPP Cost Recovery Formula resulted in a reduction of one per
cent in billing for direct operating expenses (gas, uniforms,
computers, etc.) from 2010 to 2013. This was a significant
accomplishment compared to other police services which are also
struggling with rising costs in a time of restraint. I must acknowledge
that uniform salaries, which are not part of the Cost Recovery Formula,
are 80 to 85 per cent of the overall costs charged to OPP-policed
municipalities. After two years without receiving a general increase in
wages (2012, 2013), OPP officers received an increase of 8.55 per cent
in 2014 to raise the salary of an OPP Provincial Constable to be equal
to that of the highest paid police service in the province. The OPP
will have to recover these costs in the municipalities it polices.
5. Regardless of any changes to billing and the wage raise in 2014, the
OPP remains the most cost-effective policing option for many
municipalities in Ontario. OPP costs, on average, are less than half of
the average cost of municipal police services in the province (based on
OPP and Ministry of Finance data). While the per household cost of
policing can vary widely under the current billing model, our low per
household cost average tells us that the OPP is doing a really good job
of being cost-effective and efficient.
The men and the women of the OPP are dedicated professionals who
provide a wide range of policing services to Ontario's communities. We
continue to work hard each and every day to keep the trust and
confidence of the people of this province. We look forward to
continuing to work with all of our partners to ensure a safe and secure