Maybe another way to describe why I was so agitated last night.
This is all government. We have a vast system of resources across our city. And then we have the police by their own admission admit that the problems right now are about mental health and not about actual traditional duties of the police.
If you are a community-minded leader, and you actually cared about the community and not just maintaining the institution of policing, then you would sit on that board and you would look at the bigger picture and you would say our policing has been fine and can sustain itself at $15m a year. We will keep policing at that amount because we are doing a good job, and as police officers, we are noticing that there is all of these mental health issues and housing issues and things that have nothing to do with us that are going on around us, we would recommend that the city takes the excess $15m and builds homes immediately and hired mental health professionals immediately.
And this is how you know that Chief Davis is not a community-minded person, because one of his slides was an actual joke that he was making about how the fire department is way bigger than it should be for a city our size. He’s looking at this like his job is to build up a strong police department, he’s not looking at this that his job is to protect and keep Sarnia safe.
So he’s a fake. He doesn’t care about this city and doing what’s right for the people. He cares about his empire, up against the others like our firefighters. Why? What does he have to gain by dragging our whole city through his miserable leadership of caring about his organization more than the health of his community? (that ironically is supposed to be for the health of the community).
I went to the Police Budget Meeting last night. I picked up a 2023-2025 Strategic Business Plan and buckled in for a 90 minute presentation about the state of our community. Multiple stats jumped out of me that he walked us through. I’ll point out some of the ones that are interesting to me.
- Increase from $12.6m budget in 2003 to $30.4m budget in 2023
- 2023 unique YTD impact has 428 encounters with people experiencing homelessness, with 133 unique individuals
- MHeart (social service worker) had 21 encounters and 20 unique individuals of people experiencing homelessness
- One human encountered the police 176 in a single year
- 14% of occurrences actually result in criminal charges
- 82% increase on mental health acts requiring police involvement since last year
So Chief Davis has painted a picture that a mass majority of what the police handles and deals with on a day to day basis is people with mental health issues in which the police are getting dispatched to get involved. He also acknowledges that his officers are not trained in dealing with complex mental health situations and that their priority is to drop them off at the hospital.
The second half of the presentation was about the future budget and vision that he is casting for the Sarnia Police Services. There was a ten minute conversation about getting a police dog. There was talk about needing more money to repair their building because it needs maintenance and eventually will need to be replaced. We need to save up for new technology. We need to fix our cars. We need to get more officers on the road and in our community. And then there was more conversation about getting a police dog in which multiple city councillors in the room thought it was important to chime in and give their opinion on this very important issue on an evening such as this.
So naturally, I was appalled. Here is an organization with a $30m budget who has a very clear picture of what is happening in our community in Sarnia. Whose stated mission is to provide a safe and secure community by working with the people in a sensitive and professional manner and a vision to be an organization committed to continuous improvement in meeting the ever-changing needs of our citizens and our profession. Their values are about respecting human dignity, protecting the community, caring for victims and having compassion for all and understanding changing community needs.
And so after 60 minutes of explaining what the state of the community is and the needs are extremely obvious and apparent to all of us in a room, what is the plan to address the changing community needs we are in? Buildings, cars and more officers! This felt like church all over again. Groups of people with a bunch of money that rally around a stated vision and then they get caught up in their own jobs, tech and buildings and make it about themselves rather than the people they are serving.
What a sad and pathetic organization the Sarnia Police Services is. None of this, literally none of it is speaking to the ACTUAL problem in Sarnia right now around citizen safety and human dignity which is their stated goal. I spoke my mind on this piece at the end and I was instantly confronted by the chief with appeals to authority (“I have 26 years of experience and you are ill informed”) and the deputy chief rambling on about how I am misunderstanding statistics, it’s the provinces problem and that I’m just not understanding this right. Not to mention Councillor Bill Dennis stating matter-a-factly that he wants to build more prisons if he could with the police budget.
I’ll tell you what Chief Davis, I have 38 years of experience of loving and serving Sarnia – and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that this strategic plan and your budget is nothing more than a wax poetic way of trying to build your own little empire inside our city. How about if you want to come into our city and run an organization with $30m a year of tax payer money that you actually respond to what is actually going on and fulfill your mission, not just run all your fake community meetings and then take out of those meetings only what is convenient for you to build a cool, modern police force that you can build your resume with. You have failed this city, you have failed the people that you were meant to serve and your 26 years of experience has turned you into a person without any ability to actually see the community that you walked into. Instead we are getting your vision of a cool police department forced on our entire city.
I for one would prefer if you would resign so we can find a leader who actually gives a shit about the city and will use the resources that they have to protect human life, respect human dignity and understand our changing community needs.