BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Scugog's new 'zero tolerance' policy for unacceptable behaviour at municipal facilities received a few more adjustments this week, after staff presented a draft version of the document to councillors.
The policy, previously discussed by councillors last month, is designed to establish a code of ethics for facility users and provide protocol for staff in dealing with a wide range of incidents, including physical and verbal assaults, threats and disrespectful acts.
Work began on the policy following a Feb. 19 assault on a hockey ref at the Scugog Arena. In that incident, a verbal exchange between the referee and two parents of Port Perry players began inside the arena, regarding calls made by the ref during the game. Police said that one parent later threatened the ref and kicked his legs in the parking lot. The assault took place in front of several people, including children, said police. One parent was charged while the ref and the second parent were later suspended for their roles in the incident.
The draft policy details a number of behaviours deemed unacceptable by the township, along with a response protocol for facility staff to follow in such incidents, beginning with a verbal warning and escalating to police involvement if necessary.
In addition to any possible police charges, consequences for offenders may include suspension from all municipal facilities and programs, at staff's discretion, of at least one month.
Appeals to the policy's consequences will require individuals to pay a non-refundable fee of $200, which Recreation and Culture Manager Craig Belfry said was in line with other municipalities that have enacted such policies.
"Once police are involved and there are criminal charges, it's taken to a whole different level," said Mr. Belfry, adding that the policy does not currently account for a suspended individual's re-entry into municipal facilities.
Community Service Director Don Gordon said that the final version of the policy will take into account facilities such as the Scugog Memorial Public Library and the township's numerous soccer fields and baseball diamonds.
The policy, which will now go before user groups for comment, is yet to receive input from the Durham Region Police Service, as well as from the township's legal counsel.
While councillors were generally appreciative of the draft policy, a number of changes were proposed, such as mandatory reports in all incidents, the inclusion of bullying and swearing on the list of unacceptable behaviours and immediate police notification in any criminal incidents, a caveat which Scugog Mayor Chuck Mercier said may help prevent the escalation of incidents.
"When I read this, it sounds like it may cause staff to do something that maybe someone else should be doing," said the mayor. "It will stop violence. I'm concerned that someone may be trying to be a good employee by doing something they shouldn't."
The mayor added that any incidents involving young offenders will also require additional rules requiring staff to contact parents or guardians to pick up youth ejected from facilities.
"I think it's a good draft – but it's very complicated in the legal world because people have rights and liberties," said the mayor, adding that scenarios such as attendance at public meetings arranged by the municipality may be among the exemptions from the policy's consequences.
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