Queen’s rejects police request for funds

The University has officially declined to pay the $84,000 local police requested for their beefed-up presence over Homecoming weekend 2005.

Responding to a request by the Kingston Police Force in October, the University has decided to not pay any of the suggested amount, which police said was to offset the policing costs from Homecoming weekend which included the unsanctioned Aberdeen street party on Sept. 24.

In a letter sent by Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane to Insp. Brian Cookman on Jan. 12, Deane said that the University would not pay for the expenses incurred by the police force during the street party, as the event was not sanctioned by the school.

“We have given [the police’s] request serious consideration and have determined that it would not be appropriate for Queen’s to provide compensation for policing related to off-campus street parties--ones which have been neither sanctioned nor encouraged by Queen’s,” Deane said in the letter to Cookman.

The response from Deane came three months after the request for funds was made by Cookman.

Bob Little, counsel for the University, spoke on behalf of Deane, who was unavailable for comment. He said funding the police is not the University’s responsibility.

“We don’t feel we’re responsible for the costs of policing student parties,” he said. “That’s basically it.”

In the letter, Deane said the funds requested were for the street party, not official Homecoming events.

“The invoiced amount … appears to derive, for example, from Aberdeen Street activities that do not constitute part of the 2005 Queen’s Homecoming program,” he wrote. “Indeed, as you know, Queen’s deplores and in no way condones the events that took place in or around Aberdeen Street.”

Kingston Police Chief Bill Closs, who responded to Deane’s letter, told the Journal that although the University was under no obligation to pay the money, he is disappointed in its decision.

“We view it as Queen’s trying to distance itself from the party, which is hypocritical and impossible to do,” he said.

Closs said the original request was made partly because of the $6,500 contribution the University had made after the 2004 Homecoming. An arrangement was made prior to the 2004 weekend, but without specifying the amount.

“In policing Homecoming weekend 2005 it cost us [more than $119,000] and we thought it was only fair,” he said. “What we were trying to do was save the individual taxpayers of Kingston some money for what we considered the collateral event of Queen’s Homecoming.”

Little said he didn’t know why a similar agreement wasn’t made this year, or if the idea was even discussed.

Closs said that in a letter he wrote to Hitchcock on Jan. 18, he suggested there were other ways for the University to make reparations other than paying the police.

“[My letter said] I can understand that Queen’s doesn’t want to be seen as giving $84,000 to the police, so how about giving $84,000 to vulnerable people in the city … that rely on funding from the city,” he said. “It [was] always fully, clearly recognized that paying the bill for the party on Aberdeen was the responsibility of the municipality and the Kingston Police, but I see Queen’s as a multi-million dollar organization, and by them contributing $84,000 they were not required to contribute, [it] would show that Queen’s was accepting [and] showing some sensitivity and understanding to the citizens of Kingston.”

Little said there is not yet a response to Closs’s letter

“I think it will be some time before there is a response to all of those questions [in Closs’s letter],” he said. “There were several suggestions in that letter, [and] there will be a response.”

Little said the delay between the request for funds and the response was due to the complexity of the issue.

“It was not an easy decision to make,” he said. “It was a complicated matter, as to where the responsibilities lie. That was discussed very thoroughly with the principal and Vice-Principal [Deane].”

In October Deane told the Journal that the University was considering what the response would be. 

“We had expected this year to make a ... contribution,” Deane said in that interview. “We haven’t decided in what amount or what the nature of our response is to that letter, but it’s being considered.”

Little said the University had tried to take responsibility for the street party by holding a concert in the Miller parking lot on the night of Sept. 24.

“In the context of not paying the police, the University spent $200,000 to put on the concert that was on the campus,” he said. “It’s not [as though] we didn’t spend money in relation to the Homecoming event.”

Little said that he doesn’t think there will be any lasting tension between the University and the police.

“I don’t think it will have any real long-term adverse impact [although], in the short term they have expressed displeasure,” he said. “Our working relationship with the police is good and has been good for a long time.”

Closs agreed. “It’s not going to affect our relationship, because during 2006 Queen’s and the police and the students and the city somehow have to have a happy, fun, legal party during Homecoming,” he said.

Closs added that the request for the money was also driven by an interest to see action on the part of the University. “Actions speak louder than words,” he said. “We want to see action from Queen’s University.”

No Queen’s students were criminally charged following Homecoming weekend. According to the Kingston Whig-Standard five students faced charges under the Liquor License Act stemming from pancake keggers. The students were charged with unlawfully keeping alcohol for sale and were fined $400.

Two other students already faced identical charges in December, while two more students have had the charges against them withdrawn by the Crown.

Last week, Jeremy Opolsky, JComm chief prosecutor, told the Journal w29 cases will be going before JComm.

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