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Keeping an eye on the police

Monday mornings are one of the most dreaded times of the week by many. After a relaxing weekend, it marks the time when you have to put on your work clothes and head back out to the job. And for the most part, it’s a feeling that isn’t exclusive to any one profession – everyone from construction workers to doctors to store clerks and beyond dislike Monday mornings.

It’s also the time that, once a month, the entity that accounts for more than a third of regional spending meets to discuss its operations. And now, more people are going to be able to take a look inside.

The Durham Police Services Board is responsible for, among other things, putting together the annual budget for the region’s police force. For 2017, that amounts to more than $193.1 million, or about 37 per cent of the budget paid for via property taxes.

However, those meetings may as well have taken place behind closed doors. While open for anyone to attend, they take place on Monday mornings, starting at 8:30 a.m., in a boardroom on the third floor of regional headquarters. And unlike the meetings that take place on the ground floor in council chambers or the committee meeting room in the basement, there are no cameras. The meetings are not streamed online or stored there for later viewing.

For someone wanting to know what was discussed at a police board meeting, they either had to hope a reporter was looking at the same story or that it gets mentioned in a meeting roundup typically posted within a day or two of the meeting.

However, things are looking to change, and for the better. Starting next month, the police board will be meeting in council chambers in order to utilize its webstreaming capabilities. Meetings will now be shown online live, and kept online for later viewing – after all, not everyone is going to be available to watch the meeting as it happens.

Pickering Councillor Bill McLean was absolutely right when he said that this pilot project, currently slated to run until the end of the year, would make the board “much more accessible to the public.”

After all, this is the organization that takes up more than a third of the region’s tax spending – it’s only right that they be subject to the same public scrutiny as regional committees and council.

And after this six-month pilot project wraps up and community interest is peaked, one can only hope that it be made permanent.