By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
It seems Durham Region’s top cop will be at regional council more often.
Despite some apprehension from board members, the region’s police services board has agreed, in principle, for chief Paul Martin or a delegated replacement to give regional council more frequent updates.
At its most recent meeting, regional council requested Martin provide quarterly updates at regional council meetings to essentially keep councillor’s questions from piling-up.
The motion was put forth by Ajax councillor Marilyn Crawford, who commented the question portion of Martin’s annual update on Jan. 29 dragged out too long.
In a letter to council, executive director Bill Clancy said generally agrees with the request, but the letter also references relevant sections of the Police Services Act as it pertains to council and the board.
“The letter reminds council that its relationship with the Chief of Police is unlike that with other department heads, and emphasizes that the Chief of Police is accountable to the board,” said Clancy
Pickering councillor and chair of the police services board Kevin Ashe said he believes Martin’s annual update to council in January takes a long period of time simply due to interest from councillors.
“I really don’t think there has to be a lot of work in regards to presentation, and having one or two months of [the chief’s] reports would give enough information to generate the questions that councillors may in fact have,” said Ashe.
Ashe suggested an updated protocol for the chief’s communication with council could solve the issue of a longer question period.
Board member Karen Fisher expressed her curiosity over how much of a workload Martin might be taking on, as several lower-tier municipalities have requested more frequent updates from the chief as well.
But Ashe quickly said this wouldn’t create any issues, as he pointed out there is no expectation Martin will go to individual councils, as inspectors from each of DRPS’ divisions usually go as a representative.
“The divisional inspectors are expected to interact with their individual councils, and attend and provide any information,” said Martin.
However, he made a clarification to Ashe’s comments.
“I’d be careful about reporting responsibility, because that’s not the case as has been pointed out, [as] we report to [the] police services board, and the inspectors report to me,” he explained.
Martin said while the questions from councillors can often be lengthy, they’re often regional in scope, and can be answered by the divisional inspectors.
Former Durham CAO Gary Cubitt, now a board member, raised concern with the amount of times Martin would have to speak with council, stating presenting quarterly feels like a lot to him.
“Given that council meets approximately 10 meetings a year, that’s almost 50 per cent of the council meetings that the chief would be expected to attend… I am struggling with if that is an effective and appropriate use of the chief’s time,” said Cubitt.
Ashe explained can see value in Martin attending council on other occasions.
“I think there would have been tremendous value in him being there during our budget process,” said Ashe. “He did attend [finance and administration] last week so… I only envision the chief having to come one extra time… and that would be in the late spring in May or June for maybe a mid-year update.”
To assuage any concerns, Regional Chair John Henry said while he thinks it’s productive for Martin or a representative to attend meetings, no matter what the chief answers to the board, and not to council.
Ultimately, despite some concerns, the board voted to agree with council’s request. It will now be presented to regional council at their meeting on Feb. 26.