PHPS cutting back on staff
Even after the public’s campaign to retain the Port Hope Police Service last year and council's decision to do so, the force is once again under attack, says the president of the Port Hope Police Association.
The Port Hope Police Services Board requested a meeting this past Tuesday afternoon at which the Association was informed that the 10 people in its communications department, plus its office manager, would be out of jobs at the end of this year, Paul Spencer told Northumberland Today in an interview Thursday.
"I don't know what their plan is," Spencer said. "It was a very short meeting."
It was also prefaced by the direction that board members would not answer any questions, he said.
Association members, who include 26 officers and 11 civilian personnel, are "distraught," Spencer said. "The officers are up in arms. It's another attack on us. It's another approach."
Port Hope Police Board chair and official spokesperson Liz Stewart was unavailable for an interview.
The newspaper did, however, receive this e-mail from the board's manager Jane McFarlane.
"With regard to your earlier message to Liz Stewart, I can tell you that the Port Hope Police Services Board has been working on a detailed ten-year plan for the Port Hope Police Service since November. Sustainability of the PHPS is the Board's number 1 priority. Board members have put many long hours into preparation of the plan which included a risk/benefit analysis. The plan has their unanimous support. As you know, the details of the plan will be presented at a meeting of the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, Feb. 19."
The board did not identify closing the communications centre in its own media release.
Spencer said it was the local police board that called the Association in for the meeting.
"Then they dropped this bomb on us."
This action is especially insensitive given recent events, Spencer said.
The police board made its announcement after the Association agreed not to oppose leaving three officer positions vacant, leaving 23 officers in place, instead of the official strength of 26. The Association could appeal this decision to the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services (OCCPS), but said it would not.
That saved the board about $400,000, he said.
Closing the local communications operations would reduce costs by a further $487,000, Spencer estimated. What will they want to eliminate next? the Association’s media release asked.
The release from the Association states: "The Port Hope Police will still exist but will be hollowed out with your all-important Communications Centre taking calls and dispatching police officers from an external source.
"That’s the sad truth.
"The citizens of Port Hope rallied around the PHPS during the recent costing, the entire PHPS not just the uniform members, the entire service. The Communications Centre is the reason the PHPS has such a stellar response time and the reason the Port Hope Policing Committee was emphatic about keeping the ENTIRE service."
The media release also itemizes the impact on service to the people of Port Hope, stating:
"1. Response times will suffer;
“2. The police station will no longer be open 24/7;
“3. No 911 calls will be answered in Port Hope;
“4. External agency will have no local knowledge; and
“5. All other dispatch functions, i.e. fire (3 departments) and animal control will be outsourced."
The Association believes the board is disregarding public direction given to council and is asking people to intervene again.
"The board makes their public presentation to Mayor Linda Thompson, Council and the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 at the Town Hall.
“Where it goes from there is up to you, the people of Port Hope," the Association release states.