Fri, October 1, 2004
UNION rules governing police court-duty pay plus a growing caseload are costing plenty at the Elgin St. courthouse. For the past three years, the police have overspent their court-duty budget and they're already $500,000 over budget for 2004.
Police Chief Vince Bevan is now trying to put the brakes on the costs by bringing in new rules aimed at limiting the time officers spend waiting to testify.
"It's a big-ticket item," said Bevan, who has been trying to scale back the amount paid out since May. "In the past three months we've seen a big dent."
The huge court-duty budget is no surprise to anyone who's spent time at the Elgin St. courthouse.
On some mornings, dozens of officers can be seen outside waiting to testify for some cases that might never get to trial.
If those officers are off-duty, they receive eight hours' pay just for showing up, no matter how much time they actually spend waiting or if they even testify.
If an officer comes in on vacation to testify they receive three days' pay for their time, said Supt. Ralph Erfle.
"It adds up, but such is the case all over North America," said Erfle, who's been put in charge of finding the savings.
He's has been working with prosecutors and the court on a system where as few police as possible must show up to testify.
But since the testimony of police officers is important, police brass are also trying to ensure officers are in court when they're on duty as much as possible.
MORE TRIALS IN CITY
Police have recently seen a large increase in the number of trials and court proceedings for which they must show up.
Since the introduction of beefed-up traffic enforcement, there has been an 84% jump in the number of traffic tickets issued.
On the criminal side, the number of proceedings has risen from about 8,100 in 2001 to a projected 9,600 this year.
Ottawa Police Association president Charles Momy makes no apologies for the amount of pay officers receive while waiting to testify on days off.
"Court time is part of policing business. If I go to court I don't know whether I'm going to be there for five minutes or the whole day."
He believes some improvements could be made to ensure that only officers who need to be in court are subpoenaed.
"On occasion, you'll see people going to court and they're really not required," he said.
COSTLY COURT DUTY
Ottawa police court-time budget and actual spending.
- 2001: $1.7M $2.2M
- 2002: $1.7M $2.7M
- 2003: $1.7M $3.2M
- 2004: $1.7M $2.2M to date