Cornwall Police & Fire Services Refusing To Be Transparent. By Jamie Gilcig JUNE 8, 2017

Cornwall Police & Fire Services Refusing To Be Transparent. By Jamie Gilcig JUNE 8, 2017

Cornwall Ontario – This newspaper, the largest in this city with over 1 million human pageviews per month, hasn’t had a release from the fire department since Pierre Voisine was promoted.    Unlike many in the fire services I actually live downtown and CFN operates downtown.  I hear the many sirens, but nada from the fire services.

A recent email to fire chief Pierre Voisine and Council led pretty much to crickets and a bit of gobbledy gook of a response from the chief.

Mr Gilcig,

Thank you for your note to the CAO and Council.

First, I would like to clarify that our Media Releases are only sent following major incidents, but recently, due to operational tempo, we have been unable to send some of them out. To clarify, it isn’t that we have omitted in sending the releases to CFN as stated below, but that we were unable to send them to any of the media outlets in the city. I can confirm that when these are sent out in the future, we will continue to include all media outlets as per past practice.

Additionally, I noticed your comment regarding the lack of response from my office on your query. Through our IT department, we’ve attempted to find any messages left for my attention, both via email or through our telephone lines and were unable to locate such messages. I apologize for this inconvenience, and am providing my contact information below for any future reference.

Pierre
Pierre Voisine
   Fire Chief

Frankly that’s kinda scary.  We finance our fire services extremely well.  This is sign of what could happen when politics takes over.  Chief Voisine, while being a union poobah made a lot of noise and like most squeaky wheels the politicians simply put him in charge of one of the largest budgets in the city.  Each and every issue seems to be only solvable by increasing the fire services budget.   I get it.  I’m sure many of you too, snort snort.

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But communications is extremely important, especially in a crisis.  There have been no communications regarding fires from the service since the six days of this email from the Chief.  There are simple and very cost efficient ways to communicate with the public.  Of course an actual newspaper reporting amounts of calls and issues might alert the public as to the value of service they are getting for their tax dollar, but then I don’t believe Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy either….

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The Police Blotter is another issue.   We won’t compare to the OPP as that upsets Chief Dan Parkinson, so I’ll compare to another independent service in Kingston.

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Kingston is a bigger city and with its University crowd faces many more policing challenges than Cornwall, yet it’s police service, each and every day, roll out a lovely email to those on their media list.

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It recounts calls including breakdowns as well as a few featured charges.   It’s good work. It’s giving value to the ratepayer and allows the public to get an idea of what’s going on.

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Here’s an example from today.

Calls for Service

Kingston Police had 107 calls for service during the 24 hour period starting from 5:00 a.m. on June 6, 2017. Of these, 81 calls occurred in the city central area, 20 in the west end, 5 in the east end, and 2 north of Highway 401. Some of these included:

  • 2 domestic calls
  • 1 assault call
  • 3 harassment calls
  • 3 undesirable calls
  • 3 alarm calls
  • 3 noise complaints
  • 1 Mental Health Act call
  • 4 medical assist calls
  • 10 assist citizen calls
  • 3 break and enter calls
  • 9 theft calls
  • 2 mischief calls
  • 12 motor vehicle collisions
  • 1 parking/vehicle complaint
  • 6 driving complaints
  • 10 suspicious activity calls

There were 3 individuals arrested within the last 24 hours including 2 men and 1 women, between 16 and 33 years of age, for the following: theft of a credit card, fraud under $5000, breach of recognizance, and breach of probation. Two persons were arrested on outstanding warrants.

That doesn’t seem hard.   I have asked the Cornwall Police Service to do the same, but they have refused.  They also eliminated their direct email service to media expecting us to follow them on social media or go to their website to get the latest releases which come out sporadically.   Sometimes as long as week go by without reporting any charges.

This Monday only one charge was mentioned in the release for the weekend.   I emailed our Police Chief who kindly responded.

Mr. Gilcig

 

As I understand it the OPP in SD&G do not put out a daily bulletin, but from time to time will under certain circumstances (such as long weekends, special enforcement campaigns or weather incidents.) For your information there were 162 incidents responded to by the CCPS over the weekend. A relatively quiet weekend. The CCPS respond to approximately 15,000 calls for service annually.  We will continue to research best practice in media relations within the province. The crime map on our website remains available to the public and media.

 

Thank you for your concern.

 

Chief of Police Daniel C. Parkinson, O.O.M.,

Cornwall Community Police Service
340 Pitt st Cornwall ON K6H 5T7
Tel: 613-933-5000 Ext. 2400

So out of 162 incidents only one ended up in the blotter?  This is a police force that puts people being charged for throwing grass clippings and students shaking their fists at teachers in the blotter.

So I sent our Chief a response:

Morning Chief,

As you just illustrated the information is readily at the CCPS fingertips.  Why is it that your force can’t have the same transparency as the Kingston Police force?
If you had 162 incidents and only one charge wouldn’t that also raise some questions?  For example how many of the 162 incidents resulted in charges, and if only one were reported in Monday’s blotter why not the others, if any?  
CFN recently exposed that a sub machine gun was stolen from the armoury yet the only reason the public at large discovered this was that someone leaked it to this newspaper.  Can you explain how that makes any sense?  Shouldn’t the public be aware of such a theft that could harm many in this day an age?    (and yes, firing pins can be replaced and filled bores cleaned out)
Do media have to file daily FOI’s for such basic information?  Should we have to bring this message up the ladder to yourself for such basic information?
Is this information really too much to ask of your team?  Do you need a budget increase to deliver what so many want to know?
Boggling.  And frankly when the CCPS gets about $17M per year vs the $11M that the OPP get for policing SD&G which has nearly 50% more population and about six times the area to cover surely we can deliver a police blotter to the media for the public’s consumption?
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The Chief responded:
Not all incidents reach the threshold of what our policy identifies as a “major incident.” There are many non “major” arrests and releases. Our work is not measured only by arresting and enforcing – but assisting and defusing.
What is that threshold? Is it hospital management getting a free pass for a DUI where someone like your’s truly would be smeared, or a former poobah getting nailed in a high end restaurant for distribution of cocaine that never appeared?   What is this mysterious threshold and why does it exist?   If the CCPS have and collate the data can’t they share like the Kingston police service? What is there to hide from the public?
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Is it that 15,000 “calls” , not charges, divided by $17M comes out to over $1,000 per?   We media types ask questions; at least the one’s of us actually practicing journalism and not simply being pr shills.
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When a professional service like Kingston’s example above publish a breakdown it helps us serve the public, and frankly the police serve the public. (rather than leak it)  It gives us an opportunity to follow up and ask the police about some of the charges not detailed in a release.
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The public need information in order to be able to elect officials that will hold agencies like Fire and Police accountable to some degree.  It’s not bad.  It’s good.  It helps keep things even and get value for the poor residents of the City who pay Chief Parkinson’s salary while he lives outside of Cornwall and seems quite happy to have the OPP police his hood.
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Likewise we should know whether people like Gilles Latour and other high level fraud cases are getting properly investigated and prosecuted.   How many would be surprised if Mr. Latour is let off the hook because it took too long to get him to trial or that the resources weren’t available to properly do the police work on his file?  Would we ever know?
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Sources told this writer that the CCPS usually only has one officer covering fraud and that the one that was working on the Caskanette and Latour cases was transferred out.   Is that serving the public’s best interest if that were to happen?  And what about the many other fraud cases that don’t get prosecuted or charged because of a lack of manpower and resources as white collar crimes are huge in this age?
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And we won’t even talk about sexual assaults (that’s for another story.).

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Again, without transparency and accountability we are left vulnerable to fiscal mayhem and worse, potential for corruption and wrongdoing.  Nobody wants that, do they?

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What do you think dear CFN viewers?  You can post your comments below.

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3 Comments on "Cornwall Police & Fire Services Refusing To Be Transparent. By Jamie Gilcig JUNE 8, 2017"

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Hugger1
Guest

Understanding why government or quasi-government do certain things is like finding answers for weird questions like “If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors?”

jules
Guest

Hugger is right on. Government is the most weird institution trying to figure it out and you can’t. Everything that is supposed to be done right is the opposite in government. I am holding my head and shaking it and remembering all the insanity that I saw let alone Hugger and some others.

jules
Guest

Jamie do you remember reading in Ottawa’s papers about the son of the former PM of Newfoundland where he went drinking in the market and killed a friend of his by accident while driving his truck in reverse and he went to court and got off. The rich always find ways of getting off and the little people are smeared for life and jailed. I hate rich people and that is the truth.