I have received a few inquiries about Midland’s move to an outsourced police dispatch service. There seem to be a lot of rumours, especially about perceived changes to safety. The following facts may be of assistance.
1) The decision for outsourcing dispatch was made by the Midland Police Service Board (MPSB). Given the high costs of policing, the last Council asked the MPSB to propose some measures that would trim costs. The Chief proposed and the MPSB concurred that dispatch be outsourced - a savings of $250,000 per year. The Town cannot tell the police how to operate.
2) The Town of Midland’s direction to the MPSB is through its budget allocation. Midland Council has been focused on managing our budget over the last five years. In fact financial stewardship is the main reason many of the Councillors were elected in 2014. The previous Council received a report from KPMG highlighting the high cost of our policing. Midland’s policing costs represent about 25% of our municipal budget or about $298 per person (2013 figures). Compare this to our immediate neighbour Penetanguishene at 14% of budget and $190 per person.
3) Council asked the MPSB and the Chief if there would be any safety concerns. They told us there were no significant safety concerns. Because safety is so important, the dispatch matter will now go to a provincial group called the OCPC to confirm there are no serious safety concerns.
4) The level of criminality in Midland has been decreasing for the last ten years. While there will always be incidents, Midland is generally a safe community. Downtown safety methods are also changing, especially in the way we interact with our most vulnerable citizens. The Town created a Downtown Safety Committee, open to the public, that is working with police to develop better ways to ensure safety. Everyone is in agreement that effective safety is far more than just policing.
5) The concern exists about dispatch being done from Owen Sound – they are not able to perform the job because they do not know Midland. With modern dispatch tools and training this is simply not the case. A lot of our Midland calls are already “outsourced”. 911 calls made in Midland are routed to a call centre in North Bay. All ambulance calls in Midland are dispatched from a call centre in Barrie. Of the sixteen municipalities that make up the County of Simcoe, only 3 have their own local police dispatch. All the rest use remote dispatch, mainly OPP. I speak regularly with my fellow mayors about policing issues – no one has ever mentioned any concern with improper dispatch.