Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Policing for Revenue?

There is a line between enforcing the law in the interest of public safety and enforcing it to raise revenue. Police forces, directed by their political masters, are crossing that line more often in these rough economic times.
The Ontario Provincial Police have been on our lake at least four times this summer checking boats for alcohol, required equipment such as a working flashlight and those absurd boating licences. Normally they show up once a year to remind everyone they are out and about promoting safety.
You can hear the provincial coffers ringing as they go about the lake issuing tickets. They boarded one fellow’s boat and found an empty glass that smelled of alcohol although there was no alcohol on the boat. They gave him a breathalyser test, which he passed. However, the empty glass that smelled of alcohol was enough for them to charge him, which will cost him $300 or more.
There are more and more cases like this where a warning would suffice. But the province needs money and policing is an important revenue stream. Law enforcement officers will tell you they are not pressured to lay charges. However, woe be the officer whose ticket issuing is below average at performance review time.
The story making the rounds in cottage country is that the OPP had to buy more boats for patrols during last summer’s G8 meeting in Huntsville. Now they are using the boats to raise money to pay for them.
One priority of the OPP’s strategic plan is to “build trusting relationships with the public . . . .” A trusting relationship will be built only if the public believes that law enforcement’s main focus is public safety, free of pressure to raise revenues.

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