Thunder Bay

Vehicles, cameras, computers top Thunder Bay police $1.4M capital budget

The Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) will be asking city council in the northwestern Ontario community for approximately $1.4-million to cover capital costs in 2020, chief Sylvie Hauth told the police services board during its monthly meeting Tuesday.

Police asking for money to upgrade 911 equipment; mayor wants Ontario to recoup cost through phone tariffs

Thunder Bay Police Chief Sylvie Hauth (far left) presented the 2020 capital budget to the police services board Tuesday. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

The Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) will be asking city council in the northwestern Ontario community for approximately $1.4-million to cover capital costs in 2020, chief Sylvie Hauth told the police services board during its monthly meeting Tuesday.

The service is asking for $55,000 to replace body armour, $10,100 to buy new radar for the traffic unit and just under $25,000 to repair the shooting range where officers complete the annual firearms qualification test required under the Police Services Act.

The privately-owned range is located about an hour's drive away from Thunder Bay, which puts the force at a disadvantage if there was a major incident in the city, said Hauth.

'Officers shooting in mud up to their ankles'

But the biggest problem is that the range is outside, has poor drainage and needs upgrades to meet current standards.

"The range was closed late August for almost two weeks due to the current conditions. There was a lot of rain. Honestly, in some situations officers were shooting in mud that was up to their ankles. It's very slippery and it's really not conducive to the requalification process."

Hauth said the force is working with the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service, which has also contributed about $25,000, to repair the range.

She said most other forces in Ontario have installed shooting ranges in the basement of new facilities.

Police board member Bill Mauro, who is the mayor of Thunder Bay, raised some concerns that $50,000 was being given to a private company and asked that police negotiate a long-term lease for the facility, stating "if we're only doing one year leases then we just need to make sure that before we put money into that range, we have access."

CRTC demands 911 upgrades, but who pays?

The chief has also requested $50,000 for each of six work stations to help TBPS undertake CRTC-mandated upgrades to 911, which would allow anyone to text the emergency number.

Hauth said she's been drawing attention to the looming cost of improving access to the emergency number for several years, but "if you really drill down, 911 is a city responsibility. The city is responsible for ensuring 911 services are available in Thunder Bay and therefore my argument was that there should be a city cost".

Mauro said he is trying to find a way to recoup some of those costs, noting he and several other mayors tried to flag this issue at the recent Association of Municipalities of Ontario meetings.

"Eight provinces have mandatory legislation where the telephone companies who would be using the platform are mandated to put a charge on, like a tariff on that bill and so the people responsible for the provision of the service can get the money back and fund it," he said.

"Again at this point I don't think that's likely to happen. I could be wrong. I hope I'm wrong, but I guess only time will tell."

'Super' cybercrime computer in danger of crashing

TBPS is also asking for $27,700 to replace the cybercrime "super' computer which works nonstop. It has become a crucial piece of equipment said Hauth, especially with respect to investigating online crimes, such as child pornography.

"You're talking thousands, and sometimes millions of images that computer works in terms of doing the analysis. It's currently six years old and at end-of-life" and the last thing Hauth wants is "for this computer to crash and have nothing on hand."

Large ticket items include $375,400 to continue with the ongoing body-worn camera project as recommended in the examination of the TBPS by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, and $375,400 for the ongoing renewal of the force's fleet.

The vehicles are "our office, so as police officers that's what we use on a daily basis, 24/7, 365", said Hauth noting that in recent years several cruisers were damaged in accidents, while others were taken off the road after a citation by the Ministry of Labour.

The police service capital budget must still be approved by Thunder Bay City Council.