Despite cuts, OPP services won’t decline, says staff sgt.

by Stacey Lavallie

MANITOULIN—News that the Ontario Provincial Police’s (OPP) Manitoulin detachment may have lost funding for two officers shouldn’t alarm Island residents, Staff Sergeant Kevin Webb insists.

“We’ll continue to have the same number of officers on the road,” Staff Sergeant Webb told The Expositor last week. “Where it may have an impact is on specialized services, like the snowmobile and marine patrols.”

The Manitoulin OPP currently employs 28 uniformed officers. These are the constables who are out on patrol across Manitoulin, either on foot, on bicycle, or in a car or SUV.

“Four years ago, there was funding from the (provincial) government to assist with police officer recruitment,” Staff Sergeant Webb explained. “(The funding) was from the police officer recruitment program (PORF).”

Through PORF, police services across Ontario, including the OPP, were able to hire officers. The OPP itself hired 125 officers across the province, two of which were deployed to Manitoulin Island.

“It looks like the government won’t be renewing the funding, but we won’t have to let anyone go,” the staff sergeant noted. “The two positions will be lost through attrition by the time the program is up in 2013.”

He also said that while the PORF-funded positions will be eliminated, he has hopes the OPP will see fit to continue either one or both of the positions here on Manitoulin.

“We’re still negotiating that,” Staff Sergeant Webb said. “I’ve been in discussion with the region to keep one or both of the positions here.”

He said that the Northeast Region would examine the different detachments to see how to best distribute the officers and hopefully that will mean one or two will be shifted to the Island.

Even if that doesn’t happen, being part of a province-wide police service has its benefits, he noted.

“We have many, many resources we can call on,” the head of the Manitoulin detachments said. “We have a dedicated marine unit we can bring in for our festivals and special events, for example.”

That would free up the marine unit officers from the local detachment for ground duty.

“This will not have an impact on our communities,” Staff Sergeant Webb averred. “I’m confident that we’ll manage with whatever hand we’re dealt.”