Northeast Town councillor concerned with OPP staffing complement, Staff Sergeant says all is well

LITTLE CURRENT—At a council meeting of the Northeast Town held June 19, Councillor Bill Koehler questioned the level of service the municipality is receiving from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) considering a reduction in officers due to retirement or leave.

After a review of the Community Policing Advisory Committee (CPAC) minutes, included in the council’s agenda package, Councillor Koehler asked about the loss of four officers through retirement or transfer and others who are off on leave for various reasons.

“How can we expect them to fulfill the duties to our community when we’re down maybe seven officers?” the councillor asked. Councillor Koehler suggested the Northeast Town renegotiate its contract with the OPP.

Mayor Al MacNevin explained that the Northeast Town does not follow the contract model with the OPP, but rather pays per household service and instances, but that the contract model is an option. From a cost perspective, CAO Dave Williamson explained, there’s no major difference.

“How can they justify their fees when they are down seven officers, plus amalgamating with Espanola,” Councillor Koehler asked. “This kind of concerns me, and I think the rest of the municipality should be concerned too.”

Mayor MacNevin said, in fairness, if four officers have retired, they likely have been replaced in some fashion.

Councillor Bruce Wood, the Northeast Town’s representative on CPAC, told council there is a minimum of officers that must be maintained, but also added that Councillor Koehler’s concerns were not singular among Island municipalities.

Manitoulin-Espanola Detachment Commander Staff Sergeant Kevin Webb, when contacted by The Expositor, said the OPP is not down seven officers. “We presently have a sergeant’s position that is open, but we expect to have that filled shortly,” he said.

Staff Sergeant Webb noted that one position became available two weeks ago, which is being filled with a transfer on July 16. There are two other positions that are open, one due to retirement and another from transfer, and these will be filled by late fall.

“At present, there are only three positions where we don’t have someone to fill the seat,” the staff sergeant said.

“If resources are drawn from the detachment, for whatever reason, service delivery is never compromised,” Staff Sergeant Webb explained.

To cover for one of those positions, one of the Island’s special officers has been reassigned to regular duty. Staff Sergeant Webb explained that there are further resources from the Northeast Region coming to complement the marine patrol staff over five weeks this summer.

“The calculation (seven officers) is not accurate, and the shortages are short term voids,” he adds.