Heralded as a resounding success, the city’s Security Enforcement Officer Pilot Program is slated to continue until at least the end of the year.
Greater Sudbury city council voted on the extension during tonight’s special city council meeting, during which they also voted to have staff draft a business case to look at making the service permanent.
Despite multiple demands already being made on the city’s 2022 budget, for which city administration has proposed a 4.7 per cent tax increase, the tone around tonight’s virtual council chambers was of near-unanimous support for the program’s continuance.
“This is not the Sudbury of 10 years ago.” Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann said, pledging her support behind the program, which she credits with adding a sense of security downtown that helps people feel safe.
“It just needs to be a part of how our life is moving forward. I hope it changes, but unfortunately, the reality now is that it can’t -- that these services must be in place in order to ensure that our residents are feeling safe.”
“It really does sound like it’s been a remarkable pilot and has been filling a gap in service provision to ensure that people in our community feel supported,” Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland said.
The pilot program was agreed to in December 2019 and launched a year later.
The team consists of six security enforcement officers who work in teams of two seven days per week between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 a.m.
During a report to city council tonight, general manager of corporate services Kevin Fowke said the team’s duties are to observe, report and deal with compliant behaviour.
Unlike security officers, they’ve been given authority to issue tickets and have undertaken other areas of additional training.
Prior to deployment, they received five days of in-class training on things such as de-escalation, incident response, legal authorities, use of force, Associate Safety Professionals certification, handcuff certification, confined space (bus) response, naloxone administration, mental health first aid and they received instruction from the N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre.
In addition to patrols, they’ve responded to COVID-19 outbreaks, assisted with mass vaccination clinics and responded to transit, housing, parks and downtown concerns, including downtown encampments.
Fowke said that he believes everyone one of the six security enforcement officers on staff has been involved in a life-saving event downtown, particularly in Memorial Park.
Bylaw services manager Stefany Mussen credited the crew with forging collaborative relationships with Greater Sudbury Police Service and emergency medical services personnel and being effective at de-escalating incidents.
City director of transit services Brendan Adair also credited the crew with helping keep the bus terminal and buses safe by de-escalating situations in situations where police are often unavailable.
“It adds a level of safety and a perception of safety,” he said.
Last week, Adair told Sudbury.com that these officers are called upon in situations where the bus operator requires backup and that they patrol both the terminal and on board buses.
With tonight’s direction, city council approved an expense of $204,000 to extend the program to the end of the year, which will be partially offset by $47,000 received earlier this year through the Ontario Cannabis Legalization Implementation Fund.
A business case will be prepared to investigate making the program permanent and will be debated during 2022 budget deliberations at the end of the month.
The only councillor to vote against the motion was Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini. Although he posed a few questions during the meeting, Vagnini did not express why he opposed the motion but did refer to it as “a great program.”
Tonight’s special city council meeting was scheduled to help the city’s elected officials catch up on some outstanding agenda items that have carried forward from the past four city council meetings.
As with the past four meetings, tonight’s special city council meeting timed out at three hours, at which point city council voted against extending it.
The following councillors voted against extending the meeting: Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh, Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti, Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini (who said “absolutely no”) Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier, Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan, Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre, Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo and Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer, who also chaired tonight’s meeting in Mayor Brian Bigger’s absence.
Tonight’s outstanding motions seeking to repurpose the Sudbury Community Arena and to establish a social media policy for members of council and local boards will now carry forward to the regularly scheduled Nov. 9 city council meeting.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.