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EPSB hoping for a two-board system in the Essex County OPP policed area, instead of one

- the Province is requiring police services

boards to merge within their detachment area -

by Sylene Argent

As police services boards in OPP policed areas in Essex County are facing a provincially-driven amalgamation, members of the Essex Police Services Board supported a two-board system, over a one-board system, during a special meeting hosted to discuss the issue on Monday morning.

  Further decisions on the matter were deferred to another special meeting to take place on May 26.

  Essex Councillor Kim Verbeek, Chairperson of the Essex Police Services Board, explained that on March 26, 2019, the Comprehensive Ontario Police Service Act received Royal Assent, which changed the previous act. A piece of the legislation is requiring all detachment boards with multiple services to merge into one police service board for the entire detachment.

  Currently, each OPP policed municipality has its own Police Services Board.

  Essex CAO, Chris Nepszy, noted the merger of the police services boards is not a merger of services. “It is not the operations that are getting merged,” he said. He predicts that the amalgamation of the merged police services boards may result in longer meetings, where members will hear about other municipalities and what they are doing.     

  Back in January, the OPP Detachment Board, representing the Essex County OPP policed municipalities in the Essex detachment, hired a consultant to put together a foresight report. Verbeek noted the report came forward with recommendations, following the provincial outlines for the new Act.

  “We thought they made a good report for us, representing the views of all the municipalities,” Verbeek said, adding focus was on having representation from each municipality.

  The Province eventually agreed with some of the backlash from the Ontario Police Services Board, Verbeek noted, that big boards would be a challenge to work with as there will be too many needs and concerns brought to one table from each involved municipality. As a result, the Province noted that if the amalgamated police services board would comprise of more than 15 individuals at the board, a separate board detachments could be considered. Essex County OPP policed communities, if merged into one board, would have more than 15 individuals, Verbeek explained.

  Lakeshore conducted a separate plan, looking at the possibility of having two amalgamated police services boards in Essex County OPP policed communities, instead of one.

  The previous Thursday, the Detachment Board, with representation from each local OPP policed municipality, decided not to submitted the foresight report to the Solicitor General, but to submit a recommendation for two local police service boards, one for the communities in the north and one from the communities in the south.

  The recommendation has to be submitted to the Solicitor General by June 7. This does not mean the Solicitor General’s office will approve the recommendation.

  Moving ahead, members of the Essex Police Services Board have to decide whether Essex should be in the south police services board with Leamington, Pelee Island, and Kingsville, or in the north with Lakeshore and Tecumseh.

  “Essex is left with the task to decide which side we want to sit in on, on the recommendation,” Verbeek said, reiterating it will be up to the Solicitor General as to whether or not the area will be granted two police services boards.

  The Essex Police Services Board has to make that decision ASAP, Verbeek said.

  Police Services Board member, Katie McGuire-Blais, believes Essex, if the opportunity for two local police services boards is offered, should join Tecumseh and Lakeshore.

  “We wouldn’t be forgotten if we were with Lakeshore and Tecumseh. Whereas if we were with Leamington, I feel like they have such a high problem with crime or [other] police matters, that Essex would not be talked about much at a Board meeting,” she commented.

  Essex Police Services Board member Karen Robertson said what Leamington decides to do about its policing service, as it has been considering changing the service from the current OPP provider, will impact how the county would divide the two potential police services boards, if the province allows for a two-board system. If Leamington is not part of the equation, that may have an impact on which board, north or south, she believes Essex should join.

  The Essex Police Services Board deferred making a decision on whether it would prefer to be attached to the proposed north or south amalgamated police services boards to a special meeting they will host virtually on Wednesday, May 26 at 4:30pm. This way, they can do some homework on the matter, then forward their recommendation to Essex Council, which will host a special meeting on the police services board amalgamation on May 31.