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OPP addresses auditor general's concerns 0

By Sara Carson, Orillia Packet & Times

ORILLIA - 

The OPP has resolved the auditor general’s concerns of mishandled and misplaced evidence, says OPP Chief Supt. Gary Couture.

In his annual report, Auditor General Jim McCarter said the OPP has mishandled and misplaced cash, guns and drugs.

“That’s a finding that was responded to immediately and looked at and corrected,” Couture — who is commander of East Region in Smiths Falls — said.

The OPP — which has had the auditor general's report since September — responded to this concern immediately, Couture said.

The OPP has had the report since September.

“We have a detailed quality-assurance program within the OPP and no items were missing,” he said.

The auditor general’s report noted, in some cases, money meant for court has been transferred from one detachment to another without proper records, though McCarter did not find any evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Couture said it was a problem with the OPP’s data processing. It has since been resolved.

The OPP has created a team to review the 12 recommendations made in McCarter’s annual report, Couture said.

“The OPP has already put a team together just to start looking at these and (they’re) working on them,” he said. “We provide a great service for the dollar and this is just another opportunity for us to look at an external audit of some of the issues we need to look at. They will certainly get our full attention.”

The auditor general’s report noted OPP costs have increased by 27% over five years despite declining rates of crime and serious collisions.

Couture said the OPP strives for declining crime rates.

The police force has seen a 10% reduction in crime over the past six years.

“That’s all good news. That’s what we work for,” Couture said. “Our business plan and strategic direction is all about reducing victimization, reducing crime.”

The costs are increasing as the OPP’s calls for service have not gone down, they are working in more communities and dealing with more complex crime.

“Crime is incredibly much more complex,” Couture said. “Court jurisdictions, case laws, proceedings are much more complex than they were even two years ago.”

In the past five years, the OPP has taken on additional municipalities.

“Three hundred and fifty officers worth,” Couture said. “All of those numbers have added to the increase to the OPP’s overall allocation.”

The auditor general’s report states OPP officers in detachments received an average of $7,500 in overtime annually despite no increase in calls and 700 new hires.

Though the overall overtime costs have gone up, the amount of overtime per officer has not changed since 2005, Couture said.

“There are a couple factors you need to consider,” he said. “We have more officers, so there’s more overtime. The salaries have gone up, so the cost is higher.”

Issues like the Caledonia land-claim protests, the tornado in Goderich and large forest fires in northern Ontario have seen officers working long hours.

“...In the last five years, we responded to a considerable number of events,” Couture said. “Those are eventually managed and a lot of them impact on our overtime.”

The auditor general also noted OPP officers are the third-highest paid in Canada at $66.45 an hour, including salary and benefits. Toronto police are at $70.90 an hour and Vancouver police are at $70.52 an hour.

The Ontario government has promised to make the OPP the highest-paid police force in the province. Officers are set to receive an increase of at least 8.5% in January 2014.

The OPP will continue to work on the auditor general’s recommendations, Couture said.

“We’re very committed to our communities. We feel we provide a great service for the value,” he said. “We’ll certainly look at these recommendations to make sure we address anything that will make us more efficient and effective.”

— With files from QMI Agency

sara.ross@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @Sara_VRoss

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