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Chief needs more police to combat City’s drug problem

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 15:52 -- Chris Cooke
Police Chief Norm Hansen

The legalization of marijuana and an opioid crisis in Sarnia are behind Sarnia Police Chief Norm Hansen’s request for four more police officers. He made the plea to the Sarnia Police Services Board in late June and Mayor Mike Bradley says he endorses the request.

Sarnia has 111 police officers and racked up $742,000.00 in overtime last year.

“We have a problem,” says Bradley. “Staffing levels haven’t increased in years and the police service is stretched to the limit.”

Hansen told First Monday during budget deliberations last December that his request was coming, pointing out that Sarnia Police issue more criminal charges per officer than any other police service in the province.

“It translates into more stress,” says Hansen who is trying to get a handle on the drug problem in the community. Cannabis legalization coupled with a growing opioid problem is draining resources and proving to be increasingly difficult to deal with. The Federal Government “completely dropped the ball when it comes to policing marijuana” says Hansen who is stressing the need for more boots on the ground.

The police budget this year is nearly $24 million, up three per cent. Bradley says the Chief’s request will add another 1.5 per cent when it is presented in September.

While the City will be adding more police officers it is rapidly filling positions vacated following the departure of Chief Administrative Officer Margaret Misek – Evans last December. Her replacement Chris Carter has quickly found a new Director of Finance, Fire Chief and Director of Community Development Services and Standards.

Director of Finance Suzanne Dieleman is not only looking after the City’s $145 million budget but is also heading IT following the departure of Mark Dillon later this month. Bradley says Dillon, who is the stepson in law of former Councillor Matt Mitro will likely not be replaced.

Under Dillon the IT Department ballooned to 11 full and part time staff.

Bradley says IT has always been a sore point with him noting the Sarnia Police Service has a police and civilian staff of 160 but only two in IT. “Under the former administration the IT department increased by $1 million and there was never an explanation as to why.”

Bradley added “the City isn’t in crisis and we are seeing that with new staff coming to Sarnia.”

In his sendoff letter, former Integrity Commissioner Robert Swayze had little good to say about the City criticizing the departure of Misek – Evans and the loss of four senior staff.

“There wasn’t any crisis when Swayze left and there certainly isn’t any crisis now,” says Bradley suggesting the City is getting back to the way it used to be. “We are open for business and it shows.”

The kiosk has been restored in the front lobby of City Hall and a “live person” answers the phone. “It is all about people serving people,” says Bradley.

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