Reorganization and loss of stations nothing new on Manitoulin

LITTLE CURRENT – Once upon a time Manitoulin Island was home to four separate Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) detachments—each with its own detachment commander and complement of officers.

“Back in the late ‘80s there were detachments in Little Current, Gore Bay, Manitowaning and Mindemoya,” recalled former OPP Community Services Officer Al Boyd, who now chairs the Community Policing Advisory Committee in his capacity as a Northeast Town councillor. “Mindemoya and Manitowaning detachment commanders were constable positions, but they were responsible for the administration. Little Current was a sergeant and Manitowaning had a corporal.”

This was all before the formation of the United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin Anishnaabe Police and the Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service. “The detachments were responsible for policing on the reserves,” he said. “There were 23 officers based in Little Current at one time, it was responsible for Birch Island, West Bay (now M’Chigeeng), Sheguiandah and Sucker Creek (now Aundeck Omni Kaning).”

Then came special constables and as the two Indigenous police forces were formed, at first under the umbrella of the OPP and then as standalone police services. “Through the mid-80s, through attrition, the complement of OPP officers declined,” said Mr. Boyd, who as community services officer sat on the committee overseeing the transition.

The reorganization that took place during those tumultuous years provided a stiff learning curve for the force. “There were defined areas of responsibility,” he recalled. “If a call came in and you were based in Little Current, unless there was an emergency, you wouldn’t be dispatched. But when varying shifts became involved, things could get very interesting. There might be challenges that came out of where the officers on duty at any time were based. But when it came to policing, it was all over the map.” Quite literally, as “There might not be anyone on duty in Manitowaning, so someone from Little Current might be dispatched or vice versa,” he said. “An officer could be dispatched anywhere; it was quite a transition period.”

At one point there was even a sub-station in South Baymouth, located in the building currently housing Destination Manitoulin Island.

When the headquarters moved to Manitowaning from Little Current, secretaries and other support staff were moved out of the other detachment locations and placed in Manitowaning. 

Community policing became all the rage and when the Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris decided to download the cost of policing onto municipalities, the concept of how to provide municipalities with a say in how they were policed (since they were footing the bill), came to the fore.

A civilian community policing committee, precursor to the current CPAC formula, was formed—soon to be followed by the formal CPAC arrangement of the current system. That system is also now under review, especially with the amalgamation of the Espanola, Manitoulin and some Sudbury regions.

In an odd quirk of the system, officers being transferred from Mindemoya to the newly-built Manitoulin Detachment headquarters in Little Current are apparently eligible for a relocation allowance as they are officially being moved more than 40 kilometres.