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Politics, Life and Journalism in Northumberland County, Ontario

Knuckle-dragging on policing issue

Being a police officer in West Northumberland is tough. Forget the crime or the criminals for a second and take a moment to feel for these men and women who put their lives on the line every day. Then, think about how demoralizing it must be to work for political masters who say they care and then don’t show it.

For several years, Cobourg council could not find enough ways to beat down their officers after failed attempts to bring in a county force or the OPP. Things have quieted down under Police Chief Paul Sweet, at least from a public perspective.

But, the poor officers and civilians working for Port Hope Police must find it terribly discouraging to work under the conditions described by in two reports released last Friday describing the conditions as dangerous and unacceptable.

One independent consultant told the police board it needs to spend just over $250,000 this year along to upgrade communications equipment, with a total of $1.6 million by 2019.

Then Rebanks, Pepper Littlewood Architect’s Inc., another consulting delivered a second mortal blow. With the dangerous cells and stairwells, lack of secure space, decontamination shows and eye-washing stations, plus fire safety breaches, and so on, the board needs to either invest a pile of money or build a completely new station. Due to the death of a prisoner last year, Port Hope is using OPP cells.

The roof is so bad and the boiler could go at any moment. And, if it does, there could be serious damage to the communications system (which you will remember needs $1.6 million in upgrades).

To add insult to injury, the 5,900-sq. ft. building is about half the size necessary to house the 47 people working there now.

A working group, made up of members of Cobourg and Port Hope’s police board, is trying to find ways to share services and save money. But taxpayers have every right to be impatient with the police boards and councils.

Case in point, the sharing of detention cells. For nearly a year, Port Hope was using Cobourg’s facilities. It cost $8,229 to hold 767 prisoners for about 600 hours over a 10-month period.  An agreement could not be reached. It was outbid by the OPP for the service.

Taxpayers are fed up with the knuckle-dragging approach to policing in West Northumberland. Years of negotiating by various chiefs and councils have ended in the status quo being maintained at any cost.

However, in the face of such astronomical costs to build a new police station for Port Hope or the millions to fix the woefully inadequate current building, it is time to take action.

It is ludicrous the OPP, Port Hope and Cobourg Police forces cannot find a way to service the region economically. While the option of sharing services seems like a politically safe alternative, it is frustrating to continue to see the inability of Port Hope and Cobourg to reach a fair deal over sharing detention cells, let alone communications and other services.

While fidelity to one’s hometown is admirable, taxpayers should be demanding a deal. If anything should be build, it is a new joint-police station to service West Northumberland as the two forces combine to serve the community. Hamilton Township should get on board, as well.

In the meantime, Port Hope’s police board should be apologizing to its officers and civilians for making them work in such horrendous conditions. And for their sakes and the responsibility to citizens, action must be swift, decisive and fair. But above all else, it must be immediate.

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