SAULT STE MARIE, ON – There are multiple pandemics running through this community and that was made clear during the last council meeting.
During the tabling of the proposed budget, Sault Police Service made a presentation to the council to justify why they needed a budget increase.
Police Chief Hugh Stevenson was present for questions from councillors to clarify their position. When asked by Councillor Nero about the ongoing issues in the downtown, he gave a very straight answer.
“The reality of policing today is that when you have a Bill C 75. That gives you circular justice, when there’s a lack of deterrence in the criminal justice system. When there’s no long-term treatment, what it means is very simply,” said Stevenson. “We end up dealing with the same person four, five up to 33 times on recall. That is a labour impact. I don’t care how you slice it.”
He noted right now he is using other parts of the budget to deal with issues in the downtown but it most likely isn’t sustainable.
Mayor Provenzano took the time to address the community directly on the issue. He says he hears more about this issue, policing, mental health and addictions than probably any other issue in the city. He also notes that although the city spends over $29 million in policing it is not the police’s fault. It is much more complicated than a policing issue.
“A lot of the people that have addiction, and substance use disorders in our community. They’re not criminals, and they can’t be treated like criminals and they shouldn’t be treated like criminals,” said Provenzano.
“The police service is where a lot of calls get made into. And the police service is the service that receives a lot of the calls. And that’s because other parts of our infrastructure, particularly our health care infrastructure, are not funded properly.”
Provenzano and Stevenson both noted other pieces of our infrastructure need to be dealt with and until that can be done the budget and issues will be difficult to handle on their own.
The end result may be the need to hire more full-time officers if these issues cannot be addressed.