The Untouchable Public Sector Employees

There may not be a place for him or her now in our political diaspora here in Canada (or even in the US for that matter), but in the near future there will be a place for the avant garde conservative politician who decides that when it comes to perpetually prostrating themselves and our tax monies in the support of our police, enough is enough. 

The police (and firefighters – but let’s not digress) have us over a barrel; on the one hand no conservative politician wants to come across as anything less than a servant to the principles that we are a nation of Law And Order, and that more police, more jails, more state powers in the pursuit of criminals, is all good when it comes to keeping our families and our streets safe.

And then on the left side of the political ledger, besides the fact that they never ever propose a budget cut to anything, they also never deny any group represented by something which name starts with a “u” and ends in “nion” whatever they ask for.

But are we getting value for money?  Constables here in Ontario are making $80k+ a year, $100k or more after overtime (check the next sunshine list when it comes out – half are police officers), and even the ones who are no longer active in the street and are now riding a desk as a glorified administrator are still making pretty stiff wages.  Then of course, people don’t want to begrudge police officers what they make because, after all, policing is dangerous work, right?

And still, year after year police departments pony up to their councils and ask for more money, despite being told to cut budgets.  Some just outright refuse to cut like Blair in Toronto.  Look at the Region of Waterloo Police campaign recently, trying to get 62 more staff for 2012, even though crime rates are on the decline  in the area.

Father Raymond DeSousa (one of our favourite columnists) wrote a wonderful column last year, lamenting the fact that police in today’s world don’t so much enforce the law anymore as just merely document infractions.  It’s hard to say what this change reflects; political cowardice, modern litigation difficulties, the culture of the police force from being a calling to a well-paid public service career?

But the examples are abundant of where one could argue the police have gone missing in action; Caledonia, the first day of the G20 summit (and then the subsequent over-reaction on day two), the Vancouver riot (has anyone been charged yet?), Ann Coulter was told to cancel her speech in Ottawa because of the “threat of violence” (why don’t the police just make sure that if anyone gets violent, they get arrested and removed?), and examples of police brutality and negligence and bad behaviour aplenty.

What are we getting for our money?  And then of course there is the over-the-top grief porn when a police office is tragically killed on the job.  Yes, it is tragic.  It is also tragic when a construction worker gets killed building a bridge, when a machinist loses an arm in a press, when anybody is cruelly killed or injured on the job.

In a sense there’s been a distortion here that needs some correction and restoration of the basic contract with us that used to be understood.

It is time for us to start thinking about how to make our police budgets more sustainable, and still get the protection from criminals we deserve as a society.  We have to be mindful of not slipping into becoming a police state where we glorify our police with what appears to be diminishing returns for our investment in them.

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