MANITOULIN – This is the final week of regular Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) operations in the Manitowaning and Mindemoya detachments, both of which will be closing as of this Friday, October 2 as the officers who formerly reported to those sites transition to working from the new mega-detachment in Little Current.
“We’re learning to live with it; there’s nothing more we can do. Unfortunately, some people are losing the sense of security they had to have the detachment here in town. Hopefully it’s going to work out the way (police) have promised, that front-line operations won’t suffer and will be as good or better than before,” said Central Manitoulin mayor Richard Stephens.
This Friday marks the final day before police halve the list of on-Island detachments to just two—Gore Bay and the main Little Current hub.
Assiginack mayor Dave Ham said he was trying to accept the decision that was, in his opinion, underhanded.
“The township didn’t really have any say in it whatsoever. The new detachment is all well and good but do you honestly think we need a $20 million detachment? Yes, it’s for the entire area, but I think it’s a bit of an overkill,” he said.
OPP officials say modern policing technology will enable officers to maintain the same or better levels of service as they offer presently.
Modern police cruisers are effectively rolling offices, containing computers, printers and other materials that officers regularly use throughout their shifts. This negates many trips back to a central location.
Some tasks still require a trip to Little Current but this was already the case; the small offices have not had any holding cells or infrastructure for prisoner processing for some time.
Each cruiser is equipped with GPS tracking and dispatchers can automatically send the officer who is closest to an incident to respond.
Mayor Stephens said he still had issues with the process of closing the detachments without promised consultations between the province and municipalities.
“We laid out our case and indicated to them that we were disappointed that consultation didn’t take place, and we weren’t apprised of what was happening until it had already been decided,” he said.
Mayor Ham added that the shift to the centralized station gave him the impression that the force was more focused on highway patrol than other policing duties.
Municipalities have the option of opening a ‘storefront’ police presence; a small space in which officers will be present on occasion to maintain their presence in the community. While OPP would provide any required materials for the operation of such an office, local governments have to pay the rent and utilities.
OPP North East Region superintendent Mike Pilon previously told The Expositor that municipalities negotiate their police service fees with OPP headquarters and may be able to reduce their fees once the permanent police presence leaves their areas.
These cost savings could potentially offset the cost of storefront detachments, if sufficient in amount.
“We haven’t discussed (renegotiating fees) at all. And I don’t think we’re going to until we get a feel of what the operations are going to be like over the next few months and whether the service is as good or better as they claim it will be. At that point, we will reassess those needs,” said Mayor Stephens.
Mayor Ham said his township would likely consider the addition of a storefront detachment, but that those discussions had not yet happened.
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) conservation officers previously worked out of the Manitowaning office, which will close alongside the OPP’s departure this Friday.
Ms. Kowalski confirmed to The Expositor on Tuesday morning that Manitoulin’s conservation officers will be taking over the former Mindemoya OPP detachment building for their office space.