Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Stop the Police Facilities “Soap-Opera”

Have you been following the “soap-opera” between the Niagara Regional Police Board and Regional Council regarding police “accommodations”?

Most recently, Larry Iggulden, Chair of the Police Board, stated that the Board had “lost all confidence” in the Niagara Region’s ability to oversee new police facilities.

You see, the Board is nearing the end of a process to decide the location and composition for new Police buildings. The Board called for proposals for the site of a suggested new Police Headquarters in March. You may recall that Pelham Council voted unanimously to offer to sell 12 acres of Town-owned property at the corner of Highway 20 and Rice Road. The Police are still reviewing the +30 proposals they received.

On May 1, Regional Council released all documents about the renovation of the current HQ at 110 James Street, St. Catharines. And, to ensure that tax-payer affordability and planning issues were also considered in any proposed facilities, Regional Council also formed a joint Region-Police committee to “review, analyze, oversee, and manage” the project.

This move prompted a May 23 letter from Police Board Chair Iggulden to Peter Partington, Regional Chair. The letter asserts that the Police Board holds the responsibility to determine and maintain “adequacy” of Niagara’s police service – including police accommodations. They also submit operating and capital budgets that reflect those needs to Regional Council.

At the same time, the Police Services Acts states that the Regional Council “shall establish an overall budget for the board.” And, while Regional Council cannot “approve or disapprove specific items,” the Council is “not bound to adopt the estimates submitted by the board.”

If the Police Board isn’t happy with the decisions of Council, they can appeal to the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services.

As you may recall, my February 6 column was about how some political leaders had turned the issue into a parochial debate. At that time, I feared that the parochialism was far from over.

Now, as a result of that Khrushchev-like shoe-banging and parochialism, this power-struggle has developed between the Police Board and Regional Council.

Sadly, this dispute keeps us from the real task at hand – service and protection.

Let us keep our “eye on the ball” and work together with the Police Board to find efficiencies across Niagara’s Police Service – including in facilities – and reduce costs while providing outstanding police service and protection to you and all the residents of Niagara.