Starting in 2019, funding from Criminal Records Checks (CRC) undertaken by the Prince Edward detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police will be flowing back to Prince Edward County’s Police Services Board (PSB) for special police enhancement projects.
Members of the Committee of the whole Thursday voted in favour of sending all revenue, net of any processing costs, from background checks to be deposited directly to the PSB account for the purposes of special projects and community safety supports.
Up until 2012, it was the practice of the PSB to collect the funds minus processing fees for members of the public that required police-conducted background checks for employment, volunteering, etc.
That process changed a few years ago after Prince Edward County Mayor and longtime PSB member Robert Quaiff attended an Police Service Board Association conference and remarks were made by the OPP leadership that the CRC funding could be directly absorbed by the organization and cut local PSBs out of the process.
Quaiff alerted council to the potential loss of funding and it was decided by the municipal government of the day to take receipt of the funds -both what had been accrued and the revenue stream- and then dispense the monies to the PSB for police enhancements.
But that practice changed somewhat in later years and the funding that was accrued previously by the Prince Edward PSB went to offset the municipality’s policing costs with a portion flowing back to the PSB for operations and projects.
Council continued to support operational funding for the PSB as well as special projects and initiatives, among them, the radar speed warning devices that are located at transition areas in Prince Edward County where speeding motorists are a public safety concern.
In supporting the motion, Quaiff said the radar warning devices contain a blue tooth transmitter that allows the Prince Edward detachment to download data and plan traffic enforcement during times when speeders are most prevalent is an example of a special project instituted by the local PSB.
For reasons that weren’t exactly clear on Thursday, no special project funding was set aside during the 2018 budget process by council for the PSB, eliminating that bodies opportunity to further develop local policing enhancements during this current fiscal year.
“The simple cure is to have the (PSB) start receiving the background money again so that money will always be there for these special projects,” Quaiff said.
The Mayor also took time to laud Prince Edward OPP Staff Sergeant John Hatch, calling him the one of the best detachment commanders this community has ever seen.
“(Hatch) is a community police officer through and through and he’s made such a difference in this community from a safety perspective- it would be a shame if these extra funds were not made available to help make Prince Edward County a safer place,” Quaiff said.
Quaiff said Hatch has a project in mind for cameras inside OPP cruisers on a trial basis and these types of special projects are not paid for through the OPP operations contract.
Funds from CRC’s in Prince Edward County typically generate about $25,000 annually, meaning the municipality would need to generate an extra $25,000 from taxes to cover the costs of policing going forward.
On Thursday prior to the motion being approved, Police Services Board Chair Marg Werkhoven spoke in support of the reallocation of the police check revenue to the PSB.
Referencing council’s passage of a Community Safety and Wellbeing plan developed and spearheaded by the PSB earlier this year, Werkhoven said that plan would be part of the safety enhancements the body wants to initiate in the coming years.
“In approving the plan, you sent it back to the PSB for implementation and there will be some cost attached to it- some of those we may be able to identify and offer suggestions for the budget but some of them will come up as the implementation process goes on and we will not be able to identify them ahead of time,” she said.
The Community Safety and Wellbeing plan approved by Council earlier this fall looks to address a number of identified and specified areas of concern in Prince Edward County including mental health, addictions, emergency response, seniors support and fraud reduction, etc.
“We believe this funding will allow the PSB some flexibility moving forward in dealing with the ongoing implementation of that very important plan,” Werkhoven said.
Werkhoven added that over the past four years, the Prince Edward PSB have successfully applied for two separate ‘Proceeds of Crime’ funding grants from the Ministry of Correctional Services and Community Safety totalling $120,000 which have supported special projects and services in Prince Edward County.
The funding supported a collaborative crime prevention initiative as well as the development of the Community Safety and Wellbeing plan which supports a collaborative approach to mental health in the community.
“Not every PSB in Ontario are as successful in making those applications but we have and we feel as a board we’ve provided good service for the residents of Prince Edward County and the Municipality,” Werkhoven added.
To move forward, the motion will need to be ratified at the next regular meeting of Prince Edward County Council.