Could a Windsor-Essex regional police force lower costs?

Under a shared policing arrangement, departments would share resources with those who don't have as much.

Windsor Police chief says Police Act dictates his department have certain services not required in county

Windsor Police Chief al Frederick says a regional department could share things like a canine unit or marine unit. (CBC News)

Taxpayers in Windsor pay more per capita for policing than all other parts of Essex county.

According to statistics Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara provided CBC News, Windsor residents paid $370 per capita for policing.

That number will now grow. An arbitrator decided Tuesday that Windsor police be given an 11.59 per cent raise over four years.

McNamara said Tecumseh pays approximately $200 per capita. Kingsville and Lakeshore pay $150. All three communities are policed by the OPP.

McNamara bases his numbers on information provided to him by Statistics Canada and municipal websites.

According to Windsor Police Chief Al Frederick, Windsor's costs per capita are comparable to cities of similar size and that have their own police force.

Frederick said the Police Act is partially responsible for higher municipal policing costs.

The act dictates that a city like Windsor have the following:

  • Tactical team.
  • Marine unit.
  • Canine unit.
  • Identification services.

"It tells me that I have to have all those specialty units that are very expensive," Frederick said. "I have to have those things and they cost money."

The idea of regional policing has been floated. Under that arrangement, services would share resources with those who don't have as much. 

County shares OPP services

Communities such as Tecumseh, Lakeshore and Essex all have contracts with the OPP. They are not governed by the same set of rules as the city and don't have the same have the same resources. 

The idea is that if the city and county joined forces, one dedicated police service for all of Windsor and Essex County would cost less and benefit everyone. 

Last week, for example, the OPP had to call a tactical response unit from London to deal with what police anticipated would be an armed standoff in Comber, east of Windsor.

Frederick said if they were part of a regional force, those services would have been closer and response time would have been shorter.

"We have a marine unit here, locally, where those communities would not. They would not have tactical support. They would not have canine support," Frederick explained. "These services are already here  for immediate deployment. So for the effectiveness of the service, I think you see the great benefits of regionalization."

County has little interest in regional police

Essex Mayor Ron McDermott said happy with the service provided by the OPP but would be willing to consider regional policing if the city could make a good business case for it. 

In Tecumseh, Mayor Gary McNamara doubts shared policing would make financial sense. 

He said with the current OPP contract, his constituents get all the same services that are provided by the Windsor police but don't have to pay full price for them.

"We still have a call centre but we pool it with the province. We have a marine unit we can draw from. We have a canine unit, street gang unit, all of those," McNamara said. "We pool those resources. So instead of having a full-fledged canine department - and have to pay it - 365 days a year, we share with our neighbours and have that capability."

McNamara said crisis response time isn't an issue. He pointed to the Goderich tornado as an example.

"They, within minutes, had over 200 officers available to a small community," he said. "We have those capabilities here as well."

The idea of a regional police force has been raised at Windsor council, but it's often dropped because of lack of interest from their county counterparts.

The cost of the OPP service is also going up. McNamara said it's risen by 15 per cent in five years.

If the costs continue to rise, a regional police force may become more appealing.