Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here today and to appear before you. Thank you for the opportunity to provide information about the Ontario Provincial Police, as well as my perspective on the subject of the economics of policing.
Policing in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada is a fundamental service that is at the very basis of community safety and wellness, contributing to provincial security and resulting in savings in other areas of public expenditure. Policing, well-educated and efficiently delivered, has a significant and positive impact on the social, cultural, and economic development of Ontario's communities. It is also an investment in community. People do not want to live in dangerous and crime-ridden communities, and businesses do not seek to invest in them.
Our model of policing in Ontario is founded upon legislation, the Police Services Act. Based on this, the OPP has a special mandate to provide both municipal and provincial policing services. We are the police service of jurisdiction in 323 of Ontario's 444 municipalities, and we provide services to a number of rural and isolated parts of Ontario, including highways, waterways, and trails. Our operating costs are high. Meeting this mandate requires a high level of operational readiness and significant resources.
The current fiscal reality is that some municipalities are struggling to balance their books. The Province of Ontario is carrying a significant deficit. Global uncertainty is part of the economic picture. Meanwhile, police salaries and operating costs, particularly technology costs, are rising. This is not an issue exclusive to the Ontario Provincial Police. Concern about those costs is common throughout Canada, North America, and beyond. Additionally, evolving challenges relating to organized crime, terrorism, public protests, the Internet, and emerging cyberthreats over the past 25 years have made for increasing demands relating to staffing, training, equipment, and infrastructure on all police services. Policing is an expensive business.
Taxpayer concern about costs and expenditures is not new. There exists a constant struggle at all levels of government, as well as institutions such as the police, to adapt and change to meet new needs within a financially sustainable framework. In my opinion, our model of policing in Ontario is not sustainable in the long term.
Why do I hold this opinion? Right now Ontario's smaller police services have separate command and support structures, limited economies of scale for the purchasing of supplies and equipment, and a costly and independent infrastructure. Because resources are tight and in most cases getting tighter, the fear of a corporate takeover by larger provincial and/or federal police services is very real. The fear is that this may result in a reluctance to ask for assistance from provincial police during emergency response situations or in major case investigations.
In recent years, many small police services have turned to larger municipal police services for help at a time when those larger police services are dealing with their own fiscal realities. In my view, it makes little sense for the taxpayers of the larger cities to provide ongoing assistance to smaller police services except in short-term and emergency situations.
In addition, the demand on most police services has increased as various social service and government agencies have had their budgets cut, thereby bringing police into situations to provide a response with new or expanded capacities. Examples of this elevated response include situations with individuals experiencing mental health challenges or in the natural deaths of elderly and terminally ill patients who, more often, now go home to die.
Concurrently, sustainability is not only an issue at the local level with a number of Ontario's municipalities sounding the alarm. Sustainability is also my issue as the commissioner of the provincial police in Ontario. Although we are partially funded to assist all police services, the current funding and staffing models have diminished the ability of the OPP to be all things to all people.
Major police services can assist the OPP in large protests and other operations in return for occasional OPP support in a quid pro quo relationship, and they routinely work collaboratively with the OPP on major cases. But the smaller police services have few resources to share and little to give back, other than in short-term, infrequent, and intermittent situations. This is not a criticism. It's just a reality.
What will help us move through these challenges to better ensure improvement in public safety?
We all need to discuss and better define what the core responsibilities of police agencies should be to meet the modern-day needs and expectations of communities in 2013. We must continue to explore how we might deliver adequate and effective services in different ways, ensuring that police services have the right people at the right places and times to meet those needs.
At the local service delivery level, having some services performed by civilian staff or private security organizations instead of fully trained and equipped police officers has become a realistic approach. But as we consider the implications of these options, we must keep in mind the need to maintain a critical mass of police personnel for emergency response and major investigations.
Other delivery options include citizens' self-reporting of minor crimes, not responding to some calls for service that we historically have attended, and better use of analysis and technological solutions—although this too can be costly. A number of police services are currently using or exploring all of these options.
As well, an increase in a renewed focus on crime prevention, including private sector and government partnerships, will reduce response and investigative costs, and even more importantly, reduce victimization. These are all valid options and they've been on the agenda of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Service's future of policing advisory committee in Ontario. This committee's four working groups are discussing these very issues and are focusing on four main topics: law enforcement and victims' assistance, crime prevention, emergency response and public order, and administration and infrastructure.
From my vantage point as commissioner of one of the largest deployed police services in North America, I see a need for legislative change, not merely fine-tuning and adapting but rather significant change.
Our model of policing must create up-to-date definitions of core duties and expectations, establishing firm adequacy standards regarding staffing levels, training requirements, emergency response expectations, crime prevention and investigative standards, all combined with strong governance and auditing regimes. This will require many small and some mid-sized services to form larger regional police services, amalgamations with neighbouring police services in the larger municipal police services, or they may choose to amalgamate with the Ontario Provincial Police. Although such transformation will be fraught with many political challenges, and even the bruising of some egos, the reality of these economic times isn't likely to improve soon, and frankly, it's what is right for the taxpayer. Policing community leaders will have to help lead their police services and communities through the inevitable change as opposed to fighting against what is a sad reality.
Policing responsibilities in Ontario are shared by the Ontario Provincial Police, 53 municipal police services, and 9 self-directed first nation police services. The OPP also administers policing for 20 first nation communities, under the Ontario First Nations Policing Agreement, and provides direct policing to 19 other first nation communities.
Together, we provide comprehensive policing coverage across the province. However, we have a very concerning situation in Ontario. Compared to the vast majority of provincial and municipal police services in Ontario, most first nation communities are woefully under-resourced, and as a result, have inadequately trained and equipped officers. There aren't enough officers or support staff, and the infrastructure is often poor or non-existent. Given these circumstances, it is tough to recruit and retain personnel. If you add into the mix the expansion of mining for precious resources in remote first nation territories, the resulting population growth with new camps and new communities, and the potential for organized crime activity, we could be in real trouble. In my view, this is a crisis situation.
The current funding model for first nations' policing in Canada is not resulting in the same level of policing in many first nation communities that is enjoyed in non-first nation communities. There's no doubt that some level of accountability and ownership of public safety needs to rest with the first nation communities, but we need a better strategy to ensure the current inadequate situation regarding policing in Ontario's first nation communities is quickly and appropriately addressed.
My presentation today to the committee reflects a strong belief in the need to examine the current model of policing in support of effective, efficient, and sustainable police service delivery in Ontario. The citizens of Ontario deserve no less.
I'll be pleased to offer more thoughts and opinions in response to your questions. Once again, thank you very much.