Police Chief Tom Kaye Leaving Owen Sound

Owen Sound’s now outgoing Police Chief Tom Kaye says he started thinking about leaving last July and told the city’s police service board what was on his mind at the time. In that case I suspect events since then, including a consultants’ review of the management of the department, likely confirmed in his own mind that he made the right decision.

The consultant’s report had no criticism of the department’s financial affairs, and in fact praised the city’s police service as “well-run and well-managed.” It was, as Kaye said after the release at a recent city council meeting, a “complete exoneration” in the face of “innuendo and rumors” in the community that city police spending was mismanaged and out of control.

As a result Kaye leaves Owen Sound for a full time job with the National Parole Board with his head held high.

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His stock was already high in the cross-Canada police community. He served as president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police in 2002-03 and has been on the executive of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police for the past seven years. He has recently, and somewhat controversially, defended the police use of tasers, and criticized the usefulness of the “out-of-date” long-gun registry. That last comment wouldn’t have lost him any points with Canada’s current tough-on-crime, and long-gun-registry-hating Conservative government which has appointed him to the parole board.

Kaye’s appointment to a federal agency that will likely see a lot of get-tough-on-crime changes over the course of the next few years, especially if Prime Minister Stephen Harper wins the majority he so badly wants in the next election, may be just the first step in a new national career. And of course it’s a step right out of the troublesome and no doubt frustrating issues now facing the Owen Sound Police Services.

The big one is the financial unsustainability of the department within the current financial structure and boundaries of the city. That’s part of a bigger municipal restructuring issue which doesn’t look like it’s going to get resolved any time soon, if ever.

I suspect, all things considered, Kaye has decided there’s not much more he can do in Owen Sound.

He joined the Owen Sound police as deputy-chief in December, 1995, when the controversial Bert Faragher was still chief. It was pretty clear then Faragher’s days were numbered and Kaye was brought in to take over. Sure enough, he was made acting chief in September 1997 and confirmed to that position in May 1998. I think any city police officer who was on staff then would agree Kaye took over a department that was seriously demoralized.

Kaye’s position that the recently released consultants report amounted to a “complete exoneration” of the department under his leadership appears to be well justified.

The 43-page financial review, prepared by MPM Consulting/Hodgson Associates, based in Richmond Hill, examined a 10-year period from 2000 to 2010. The report says Owen Sound Police Services provides an “exemplary level of policing service to the public” and “meets or exceeds all of the requirements contained in the Police Service Act of Ontario.”

It says “most of the initiatives that can be taken to reduce costs or limit expenditure increases have been implemented.” Just over 87 percent of the police budget pays for wages and benefits, the report says. “None” of the non-payroll expenditures — such as  long-term sustainable cost savings.”

This consulting company has done numerous similar reviews for police departments in Ontario, and even internationally. It’s credentials are impeccable.

Last July city council passed a motion asking the police board to examine the $6 million police budget for any possible savings.

After the consultants’ report was released Kaye also recalled allegations of out-of-control police spending surfaced during last fall’s municipal election campaign.

That must have bothered him a lot, and rightly so.

If there are financial issues related to the operation of the Owen Sound Police Services they’re certainly not his fault; they’re the fault of petty municipal politicians on Grey County Council who 12 years ago decided for their own self interest not to let Owen Sound have the expanded boundaries it needed to remain financially sustainable in all respects, including the cost of policing.

My message to the former and current city council, and anyone else who feels like pointing the finger of blame and accountability for Owen Sound’s financial problems, is it’s high time you figured that out once and for all, and started making a big fuss about it at every opportunity, including at county council.

Originally published in The Sun Times in 2011.

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