The new format for writing all kinds of tickets — including speeding, running a light or distracted driving — now takes longer for officers to complete, but the goal is to reduce overtime for officers to attend court.
Provincial legislation changes made in November now require officers to fill out what’s called a certificate of evidence along with the ticket. One of the significant changes is that people who have been charged with an offence must now convince a magistrate why it’s necessary for an officer to attend a hearing.
The Provincial Offences Act replaces the former Summary Offences Act, containing the guiding rules for infractions under the Highway Traffic Act and some municipal bylaws as well.
Traffic division Insp. Gord Spado says the changes have created a “learning curve” for his officers and he admits that partially explains the decline in the number of written tickets in December 2016 versus the number in 2017.
‘To be honest I couldn’t read 90% of them, probably. Now it has to be an actual articulate story.’
– Traffic division Insp. Gord Spado
“Every time we issue a ticket we complete the certificate and that is taking some time. That is what our officers are in the process of learning right now,” Spado said.
Under the old system officers would make notes on the back of tickets that would frequently be hard to decipher.
“To be honest I couldn’t read 90 per cent of them, probably. I’ve taken a look at some that just had a few letters on them, but it means something to the guys writing them. Now it has to be an actual articulate story,” Spado said.
The first goal for the new system, Spado said, is to reduce the amount of court time for officers when they are not on duty. But also to keep them out of court when they are working. He said it will make the WPS “more efficient.”
“Members are also often in court all day on a work day. Which means if they are in court they cannot be out doing the rest of their job,” Spado said.
Spado said part of the 20-plus per cent drop in tickets can also be attributed to a colder-than-average December, but acknowledges it was a significant decrease. But he also said it’s a snapshot and a six-month block of time will give a better view of the effect of the new system.
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“We are definitely asking our officers to do more than they have in the past … but one of the reasons we are not in a rush to change that right now is, number 1, we don’t know what the courts are going to do with these certificates; how well they are going to be accepted. But probably a bigger thing is right now our members are learning exactly what the courts need,” Spado said.
He doesn’t believe that losing the incentive of overtime pay on days off will lead to officers writing fewer tickets.
Spado said the goal under the new system is to write fewer tickets but with more precision and the new formula should not affect the amount of revenue generated by the tickets.
“Better-quality tickets and better-quality evidence should result in less stays [of convictions] so net affect of fine revenues may not be impacted and on top of that you have the benefits of reduced court time,” Spado said.
“I don’t think so, because the enforcement will be more consistent because we don’t have guys tied up in court all day on a work day. And I don’t think the numbers are going to drop a significantly over time,” Spado said.
“They will be down a little bit but I don’t think it will significant over time.”