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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Owen Sound, Hanover Police Services Look To Share Some Resources

Owen Sound | by Claire McCormack  

Cost efficiencies and effective service delivery: Owen Sound police chief

The Owen Sound Police service is looking at sharing its resources with Hanover's service and making Owen Sound a police training hub in 2020. 

Owen Sound Police Chief Craig Ambrose and Hanover Police Chief Chris Knoll have been meeting since last spring to come up with ways to find savings and be more efficient.

"It's not just a response to council," says Owen Sound's Ambrose, who, in his first year as chief, has seen a request from council for more amalgamation talks and a request to find more savings. 

"It's about efficiencies and it's about delivering the best product." 

He says since last April, he and Knoll have gone over just about everything their police services do including dispatch, training, police response to calls, central lockup facilities, road supervision, forensic identification, general and drug investigations, the Community Services Officer, major events and a general policy overview.

Local police services including the OPP work together for major events already. (Think long weekend traffic enforcement or a big festival) 
Ambrose says as of this year, Owen Sound, Hanover, Saugeen Shores and West Grey Police will complete the mandated annual use-of-force training together in Owen Sound. 

"Why were there three different centres delivering the same thing when one area can do it with two instructors instead of six?" says Ambrose, adding "It gets expensive when you have to start sending people to police college or sending people to another service and paying accommodations and meals and things like that."
Hanover police estimate the change will save about $10,000.

It also allows officers to network with each other and so far, Ambrose says it has gotten 'very positive' feedback from officers. 

Ambrose says there are other benefits to working together, "Because we share peer support in mental health, now somebody might reach out to someone they met here at a training day"

Meanwhile, Owen Sound already dispatches for Hanover and around 30 other emergency response agencies around Ontario, bringing in around $1 million a year in revenue for the service.

The two police chiefs are looking at alternative response options to always showing up in person, in a cruiser. They include online reporting of some crimes and officers handling some calls over the phone. The Owen Sound Police Service has already outsourced minor collision reporting through a partnership with a private company. 

Owen Sound already shares its civilian forensic identification expert with Hanover police, saving Hanover time and money.  

They're also considering sharing their new civilian Community Services Officer with Hanover. 

In Hanover, on-duty officers currently fill that role and could be freed up to do their regular duties. Having a civilian officer like Owen Sound does, instead of a sworn one, is less expensive. 

Meanwhile, a supervisor is required for each normal policing shift. Owen Sound has a supervisor on staff 24 hours a day. Hanover currently uses on-call supervisors. 

The services are looking at combining 'talk groups' on their radios to create greater access to communication with an on-duty supervisor.
Ambrose also notes there is an intelligence value to this, as it would allow officers to learn from each other, talk about 'persons of interest,' crime trends and see how other calls are resolved. 

While Owen Sound has a dedicated drug investigator, Hanover does not, and the chiefs are looking at some support and cooperation during investigations since Ambrose says cases cross through jurisdictions and drug suppliers tend to frequent both places. 

One thing they're having difficulties collaborating on is central lockup and prisoner transfer because Hanover uses the Walkerton courthouse and Owen Sound uses its own courthouse. Ambrose says court jurisdiction would need to discussed if lockup arrangements were changed.   

Meanwhile, Hanover and West Grey police both recently had a consultant do a policy review, but Owen Sound has not. Owen Sound will get the benefit of looking at their notes when it reviews its own policies. 

When asked if all of the collaboration is in preparation for amalgamation, Ambrose says, "I don't know if it's a lead up to amalgamation, that is a political will, that is a political question. I think any time you're looking at efficiencies and effectiveness, you have to look and consider whether or not there are other options out there and maybe that is an option in the long-term."

Ambrose goes on to say, "Certainly its primary reason is effectiveness and cost effectiveness, service delivery effectiveness and making sure that we can provide the same service that we do now in a more cost effective manner." 

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