Justin Piché, PhD
Associate Professor, Criminology, University of Ottawa
Member, Criminalization and Punishment Education Project
Dear members of the Ottawa Police Services Board:
My name is Justin Piché and I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa, as well as a member of the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you.
My delegation today concerns the “Lease Agreement for Unit 107, 50 Rideau Street”, which is item 8.10 on your agenda, to cover the “first year of the lease including operating costs” of “$245,944.95 exclusive of HST” for a new “Neighbourhood Operations Centre” in the Byward Market for the Ottawa Police Service. Before the Board approves such a proposal, I would urge you to demand that the Ottawa Police Service table the full lifecycle costs of this project, including but not limited to the construction costs associated with retrofitting the space, the costs of the equipment that will be onsite, as well as the costs associated with the number of officers who will be working there. Without this information, the Board is not in a position to weigh the costs and benefits of this initiative versus other possible approaches to enhancing community well-being and safety, let alone make a decision about moving ahead with leasing space in a shopping mall to expand police presence in the Byward Market.
A second point I would like to raise is whether or not alternatives to this “Neighbourhood Operations Centre” have been considered where the goal of enhancing community well-being and safety is concerned. When criminological research has shown that for every $1 spent upstream on prevention, one saves $7 that would otherwise be spent on cops, courts, cages and victims’ services after victimization has occurred, it is critical that the Board, as well as Council and the City of Ottawa as a whole, consider all options – one’s that will do more than enhance the Ottawa Police Service’s capacity to conduct street sweeps of people pushed to the margins in the name of keeping us all safe.
For instance, how many permanent and supportive housing spaces at $40,000 per year could we create for people who are currently without a home with the lifecycle costs associated with the “Neighbourhood Operations Centre” in the Byward Market? How many community gardens valued at $12,000 per year could we build to address food insecurity with this money? How many harm reduction spaces at $14,500 per year or spaces for 35 days of drug treatment with a year of aftercare at $19,000 per year could be funded with this money? How many hours of counselling at $150 per hour could be provided to people in crisis with this money? How many intensive case management spaces could be funded for people living with severe mental health issues with this money? How many peer support workers could be hired at $52,000 per year to work alongside people needing and wanting to rebuild their lives with this money?
In closing, I submit that the Ottawa Police Service has not provided enough information at this stage for the Board to make a decision on item 8.10 today that will commit the City of Ottawa to a road that it should arguably not go down. I also submit that there are more cost-effective, humane and just ways to enhance community well-being and safety. People need care, not cuffs. Thus, I urge the Board to either defer the vote on this matter today or vote no.