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Proposed new Thunder Bay Police Station

Proposed new Thunder Bay Police Station

Projected cost $56 million police station

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  ~~~~~~  June 5, 2021  (LSN)  So we’re going to build a new $56 million police station. Just like that. But it begs a question. Why not $156 million? The specific dollar figure suggests there must be a plan. But is it the right plan?  

                Policing in Thunder Bay and across the continent is changing. Dramatically. Even our police managers admit as much. Successive chiefs have said our officers do as much social work as policing in the traditional sense.

                We’ve had recent recommendations from outside agencies calling for significant reforms. Perhaps it’s time we also take a new, hard look at what the next generation of policing will look like. That certainly makes sense if you’re going to build a next generation building.

                Maybe that future requires a lot fewer police officers. Are we building a $56 million monster that doesn’t fit the needs of a radically different police department?

                Before we put a shovel in the ground, the Police Services Board should do what bureaucrats like to call a program review. It should be led by the chief of police. She should get input from stakeholders and the public. We should all get a chance to say what we kind of policing we want for our tax dollars.

                After we’ve got our new priorities straight there should be a second review so that the building we finally do build functions the way it’s supposed to.

                It’s pretty obvious that didn’t happen with the current building. One of the big complaints is that people under arrest are paraded in front of members of the public in the police entrance lobby. That seems like a no-brainer mistake. Yet nobody involved in the planning caught it.

                In this context, the vote by the Police Services Board is more than a little troubling. For a few reasons.

                 The vote seems premature and settled at the same time. They have their ideas about the building and that’s the end of it. They didn’t ask for input on the function or design of the facility. The decision to build on a new site that will cost six million dollars to purchase is a huge red flag. Why a new site? Why not a multi-storey addition to the current building? There’s lots of room on the existing site. An addition allows you to carry on the business of policing until the addition is complete. No, instead we’re going to pay a property owner all that money before we even begin.

                The board’s decision to just spend big and build new is also troubling because the board’s record of looking after its current building. Successive boards obviously let the Balmoral station run into the ground. Why wasn’t it maintained properly over the past three decades? Lots of swat gear, but little drywall. The board simply has little credibility when it comes to looking after its facility. But now it wants a shiny new one. That begs another question. Should the police be in charge of maintaining their own building? They don’t seem to be very good at it. Maybe the better option is for the city to build and maintain it while the police pay rent.

                Given all of the above, city council should direct the Board to start over, open up the process, and come up with a new plan for policing in Thunder Bay and a facility to match the new priorities.

 Shane Judge
#LSN_TBay  #LSN_TBPS #LSN_Opinion

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