OPP, Wiky, UCCM police tri-force squad make big inroads in drug scene

Enforcement on Island increases by 23 percent

MANITOULIN—The UCCM Anishnaabe Police, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Wikwemikong Tribal Police have joined forces to tackle the issue of illicit drugs on the Island through a new tri-force drug unit, which has already led to a 23 percent increase in drug enforcement.

“The Island police commanders Staff Sergeant Kevin Webb with the OPP, Chief Gary Reid of the Wikwemikong Tribal Police and myself (UCCM Anishnaabe Police Chief Rodney Nahwegahbow) meet a couple times a year to discuss issues in our communities and across Manitoulin,” explained Police Chief Nahwegahbow. “We all recognized that drugs in our communities were affecting all of us and came up with the tri-force drug partnership strategy.” 

“This is something that has been on the go loosely since last year, but we made it more formal about six weeks ago,” added Sergeant Webb.

The police commanders explained that each force has an officer assigned as the lead for their force and that they meet to exchange intelligence.

“The leads gather intelligence and work together to share information pertaining to drug enforcement on Manitoulin,” said Police Chief Nahwegahbow. “On Manitoulin everything is connected, so it is only natural that we work together to work on this issue.”

Sergeant Webb said that there are a few main elements of the tri-force drug partnership strategy: sharing intelligence, working together for improved efficiency and community support.

“All three commands operate independently and information sharing isn’t something new, but there was no formal way to share drug enforcement intelligence,” Sergeant Webb told The Expositor. “Now each command has its own representative and they are able to meet and share information which puts us all on the same page and saves on time and resources. With the new (OPP) billing model, we need to be more efficient—doing the same job with the existing resources—and this strategy helps with that.”

“We all share communities here on Manitoulin,” continued Sergeant Webb. “We share schools and recreation centres—each community bleeds into the next. We are neighbours and as Islanders we share our lives so it only makes sense that as police we work together for issues dealing with things like drugs.”

Sergeant Webb said that the tri-force will also work on elements like drug prevention in the community from educating students to special services.

He said that working with individuals and groups in the medical field is also part of the strategy, such as dealing with substance abuse.

“It is all part of the plan, leading towards proactive, reactive enforcement,” said Sergeant Webb. “We want to get the drugs off the street, but once we do we need to work with organizations to ensure people get the help they need. The OPP (Manitoulin Detachment) statistics show that our drug enforcement was up 23 percent last year and it is already up more from this time last year. As we get drugs out of our communities, we will see customers going from users to getting help, and that is why the last part of our strategy is important as well.”

Police Chief Nahwegahbow said that the partnership has been going “very well,” sentiments echoed by Sergeant Webb and Police Chief Reid.

“The communities have also been responding well in kind,” concluded Police Chief Nahwegahbow. “They see what we are doing, and our team approach, and the communities seem to be appreciating this partnership and its results.”