Concerns raised with expected closure of OPP detachment

MINDEMOYA—Concerns were raised at a meeting last week as to the possible closure of the Manitowaning detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in the future.

“I just wanted to ask about the rumours that the detachment office in Manitowaning is scheduled to close in the near future,” asked Les Fields, an Assiginack township councillor at a Manitoulin Community Police Advisory Committee (MPAC) meeting last week.

“The investigation on the possible closure of current detachments and opening of new detachments in the future is in the very preliminary stage,” said Staff Sergeant Kevin Webb, Manitoulin OPP detachment commander. “As we all know the province is looking at efficiencies, and there are not the dollars there were in the province in the past.”

“The (OPP) organization has identified in our OPP region some detachments that may be amalgamated,” said Sgt. Webb. “This is all based on numbers, calls of service numbers which are dwindling, and how many people work in each detachment, throughout the province. “The vision for Manitoulin Island in the future is to have two detachments or possibly just one, and situate the detachment offices where they will service the Island best.”

“It’s inevitable, eventually we will have two or one detachments, not with the present facilities,” Sgt. Webb told the meeting. “The OPP has identified seven detachments in the region to develop a business case on and how to move forward. I met with the reeve and clerk of Assiginack and I said we have to start looking at options. I told them number one, the Manitowaning detachment is one of the detachment offices that is being looked at for closure, and number two we need to look at what the OPP can do to lessen the impacts on the affected communities; possibly having a store front office set up with a computer and an (OPP) cruiser in the community. This would help deal with quick responses to an incident and would provide visibility in the community.”

However, Sgt. Webb cautioned, “to say that the Manitowaning or any detachment is going to close in the near future may be premature. We will start to look at all of this, and to get input from the community on how it will affect them.”

“It will have a huge impact on any municipality where the OPP detachments are being closed,” stated Ms. Fields, “with not only policing services, but with officers and families who live here. Will you (OPP) be open and transparent about possible changes in our area in the near future and other communities?”

“Absolutely,” stated Sgt. Webb. “This is why I went to the community leaders first, we want to be absolutely open and transparent; communicating with the communities is extremely important. These changes not only affect the community but the officers who are entrenched there.”

“This issue has people worried, very worried,” said Ms. Fields.

Sgt. Webb said the OPP has indicated in his meetings with municipal leaders this issue has to be discussed. But he noted as far as when the changes will take place, “who knows? It could be one, five, 10 years.”

It was noted by Ms. Fields that the Manitowaning detachment is the newest on Manitoulin Island.

“When they make decisions on building new detachment offices they will be strategically placed on the Island to provide services across the Island, as well as through the Island,” said Sgt. Webb. “I’ll be talking to every community on the Island affected now and in the future.”

Sgt. Webb told the Recorder after the meeting Tuesday, “No. No other detachments are being looked at for closure on Manitoulin Island at this time. All we are doing right now is starting to look at the pros and cons of closing one office. What has happened is the OPP organization has identified a need to look at this based on calls for service, how many work and more, and have looked at 7-9 detachments in the region, and whether it is feasible to close them or not.”

“It is only fair that I approach community leaders and officers for discussion as I have done,” said Sgt. Webb, noting he expects to be requested to attend the next Assiginack council meeting. “Simply put, the province is looking for efficiencies, and in our case looking at current detachments and those nearby that could help in policing those areas.”

“But I want to make it clea––this is all preliminary,” cautioned Sgt. Webb. “No one has said, or instructed me, that we are definitely going to close the detachment and go ahead and put the process together. Our goal locally is to provide the same policing services we have since 1909.”

 Tom Sasvari

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