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Essex to join north, if Province allows two police services boards for Essex Detachment

by Sylene Argent

During a special Essex Police Services Board (EPSB) Meeting last Wednesday afternoon, a split, majority vote voiced the desire to have Essex join the “North Police Services Board” for the Essex Detachment, with Lakeshore and Tecumseh. This will only be applicable if the Province allows the Essex Detachment to have two boards.

  The Province is requiring police services boards to merge within their detachment area.

  At the special EPSB meeting, held on Monday, May 17, members of the Essex Police Services Board supported a two-board system, over a one-board system.

Essex Councillor Kim Verbeek, Chairperson of the Essex Police Services Board, explained then 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. There are five police services boards within the Essex Detachment, one for each OPP policed municipality. In addition, Pelee Island is also OPP policed.

  Last week’s special meeting was held so members had time to consider which board they wanted to join, since adjourning from the May 17 meeting. 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.

  Police Services Board members Katie McGuire-Blais, Karen Robertson, and Rich Tapping, all spoke in favour of joining the North Board, if the Province were to allow two boards in the Essex Detachment area, while Chairperson, Councillor, Kim Verbeek, and board member, Councillor Morley Bowman, spoke in favour of joining the South Board.

  Bowman said the Board should look at joining the South Board as Essex police work fairly closely with Kingsville police. Verbeek added that she believes Essex’s policing needs align with Kingsville, and the two towns share some of the same officers.

  Robertson worried the possible future South Board’s focus will be on Leamington with the municipality having many issues and needs regarding policing.

  With a vote of three in favour, and two opposed, the motion for the EPSB to join Tecumseh and Lakeshore Board, if the Province allows two police services boards for the Essex Detachment, carried.

  On Monday, Essex Council hosted a special meeting on the matter. Ultimately, after a lot of questions and conversation about the EPSB decision to join the North Board, if possible, Council voted to agree.

  The purpose of Monday’s meeting was to see if Council would support the EPSB’s decision to join the North Board, if the Province will allow there to be two boards locally. Verbeek added that if there ended up being a two-board system, both boards would still work closely together.

  During the meeting, Councillor Sherry Bondy said she thought the better fit would be for Essex to join the South Board with Kingsville. She said Leamington has a Mayor in Hilda MacDonald, who has been vocal about the municipality’s needs. She said working together with the South Board could lead to a better service.

  She also noted the similarities in Kingsville and Essex, and further noted Harrow and Colchester are closer to Kingsville geographically, than they are from Lakeshore.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche noted that Lakeshore’s population is much larger than that of Essex, and added Essex shares the south shoreline with Kingsville and Leamington. He did note, however, that if the EPSB recommended joining the North Board, it is hard for a Councillor to disagree.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen, in looking at a map, noted geographically, it did make sense for Essex to join the North Board, with the Manning Road Detachment just down the road.   

  McGuire-Blais said the board alignments do not affect service, it is about what will be talked about at meetings.

  Verbeek said she has recently heard that as long as municipal submissions, asking for more than one police services board, falls within the guidelines, the Province will accept the requests.

  “I feel very confident they are going to take the recommendation,” Verbeek said, adding she believes the Essex Detachment fits the criteria to do so, which includes one board being too large.