Kingston Police

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Growth and Change

The size of Kingston’s police force fluctuated between 8 and 10 officers during the 1850s and then increased to 12–15 officers in the early 1860s, with a total police budget of about $4,500.  The force strength remained virtually unchanged until well into the next century.  During this time, Kingston had grown from about 15,000 in 1860 to 22,368 in 1920.  In 1919, there were 15 officers on the force.  They worked a 72-hour week, on nights two weeks out of three.  The shifts were 11 to 13 hours long, officers had one Sunday off a month, and the pay was about $23 per week.  The force had two bicycles, no telephones, and no cars, and the officers did not carry guns.  The weekly hours of work dropped to 54 hours in 1937 and to 48 hours in 1939, but it was not until 1957 that the weekly hours of work reached the current level of 40 hours per week.

By 1932, the force had grown to 20 officers with a budget of $34,259.  It was not until after World War II that the force started to grow at a fairly constant rate.  By 1950, there were 36 officers policing a population of 32,924.  The first major annexation of property from the townships surrounding the city occurred in 1951, when the city annexed land west of Palace Road to the Little Cataraqui River.  With this came an increase of 10,000 in population, and 10 officers were added to bring the total to 46.  Post-war industrialization, with the building of Alcan, DuPont, Celanese Canada, and Northern Telecom, brought with it economic stability and steady population growth.  This resulted in an increase in the number of police officers, eventually reaching 116 in 1990.  The next ten years, however, were no doubt the most dramatic and demanding in the history of the force.  The decade began with provincial and federal government policies that placed intense pressures on the City’s annual budgets, followed by a local municipal restructuring under the Province’s 1996 Savings and Restructuring Act.  All of these events significantly impacted the Kingston Police and the manner in which they conducted business.

In 1993, facing increased budget deficits, the provincial government introduced the Social Contract Act as a means to reduce public sector salary costs.  It required both short-term cuts, causing employees across the province to take unpaid leave, and long-term reductions, whereby the savings achieved through unpaid leave were to become permanent cost savings.  Members of the force escaped having to take unpaid leave because of an agreement between the Kingston City Police Association and the Kingston Police Services Board that allowed approximately $1 million in a pension surplus fund to be used to cover these costs.  To cover the future annual long-term costs of approximately $250,000, the Board chose to offer retirement incentives to non‑commissioned officers; this resulted in the retirement in July and August 1994 of nine officers holding rank.  The ranks were permanently eliminated, but, as part of the incentive plan, six new recruits were hired in 1995 to replace the nine members who had left.

Feeling quite comfortable that it had met the budget challenges of the Social Contract Act, the Police Services Board was informed in late 1995 that it still had to reduce its 1996 budget submission by 14 percent (approximately $1.2 million).  Chief Closs, newly appointed in August 1995, had to find methods to help pay for a 1995 City deficit of $700,000, reduced federal grants in lieu of taxes, and sharply reduced provincial funding (the beginning of several years of provincial downloading of costs to municipalities).  Chief Closs recommended that the earlier retirement incentives again be offered to all members who qualified for retirement under the pension plan.  This resulted in an additional 8 officers leaving, reducing the sworn staff to 101 officers.  The Chief also recommended that additional revenues be generated through a program of alarm licensing, a program used in other municipalities but new to Kingston.  In addition, he was successful in having the Board authorize the implementation of a new driver education program, an initiative that was unique to Kingston.  Under the plan, drivers who were ticketed for more minor driving infractions were given an additional or “fourth” option for responding to a charge.  The new option allowed offenders to attend the police station to review safety material and write a test related to their infraction.  If successful on the test, participants paid an administrative fee—which could be credited to the City budget as opposed to the larger fine that would have gone to the provincial government—and their tickets were then not processed through the court system.  This “Option 4” program, as it came to be known, was popular with people who were charged and was quickly copied by several forces, both large and small, across the province.  The program remained in place until 2005, when the provincial government ordered all police forces to stop offering the extra option.

As part of the Province’s plan to reduce and download costs, in 1996 it passed the Savings and Restructuring Act, which dictated that smaller municipalities throughout the province should merge with their neighbours to create efficiencies.  The City, along with Kingston Township to the west and Pittsburgh Township to the east, was counselled to come up with an amalgamation plan or the Province would impose one.  After months of negotiation, the three municipalities agreed to amalgamate.  The mayor and the township reeves formed a Transition Board, which throughout 1997 was to develop the structure of the new city.  Policing was but one of the many issues that they had to tackle.  To complicate matters, Pittsburgh Township had been receiving free policing from the Ontario Provincial Police (a province-wide practice also set to end effective January 1, 1998, as part of the Province’s reforms) while Kingston Township had been paying for policing from the Ontario Provincial Police under a contract in effect until December 31, 1999.  With Pittsburgh being the more immediate issue, the Transition Board deliberated its options and ultimately asked the Kingston Police to take over policing in the Pittsburgh Township area in January 1998.  Seven new officers were hired to meet this commitment.

Because of the existence of the policing contract for Kingston Township, the newly formed city, which officially came into being on January 1, 1998, commenced operations with the Ontario Provincial Police providing policing services for the former Kingston Township area and the Kingston Police covering the remainder of the city.  Since this arrangement was viewed as temporary, on May 12, 1998, City Council debated a motion to Council that the Kingston Police take over responsibility for policing the entire city.  In the end, Council voted unanimously to have the Kingston Police assume policing responsibilities in the former Kingston Township as of July 1, 1999.  To that end, a steering committee was struck on June 15, 1998, in a joint meeting of Kingston City Council and the Kingston Police Services Board, to establish a framework for police services in the city of Kingston that would “enhance public safety and proactive service delivery with broader involvement of the community, leading to the integration of emergency services, while reducing overall policing costs.”

To meet the demands of the greatly expanded jurisdiction, the sworn complement of the Kingston Police increased by approximately one-third in 1999.  In consideration of the direction to reduce overall policing costs from pre-amalgamation levels (a combined officer complement of 155) the steering committee decided on a staffing model of 145 sworn officers for the enlarged force. 

As the force settled into its expanded role and experienced firsthand the policing demands in the new areas, it began to further analyse the full policing needs throughout the city, community feedback as to levels of service, and the impact of the Province’s Adequacy and Effectiveness Regulation.  The latter piece of legislation, a regulation under the Police Services Act in effect from January 2001 to set parameters for adequate and effective policing throughout the province of Ontario, along with other new provincial and federal legislation directly impacting on policing and the justice system, proved to be significant for resource levels:  by 2006, the force had grown to 182 sworn officers and 53 civilians.  A staffing review in 2006 identified a further need for additional resources and resulted in the sworn complement increasing to 198 officers by 2010; by the end of 2011, the civilian complement had increased to 60 positions.