The Council of the United Counties of Leeds & Grenville [UCLG] have been discussing the idea of having a regional police force established for the area, in the light of recent changes to the Police Services Act. Under the Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act, 2019, the province is planning to amalgamate many of the Police Services Boards, and this has raised questions for the Municipality of North Grenville, whether the current Police Services Board in North Grenville will continue to operate as before; whether they will have the same authority in terms of negotiating OPP service contracts and costs, and oversight of OPP operations. Or will a Board be established to cover a county-wide area, leaving NG with less input, and less influence, over local policing matters.
The Act would mean Police Services Boards would be organised on a detachment-wide basis, and not on a municipality basis, as at present. In effect, the municipal Boards would be replaced by just two: one for Grenville County and one for Leeds County. In introducing the motion to consider establishing a regional police force, Mayor Roger Haley of Front of Yonge, stated such a force would give the municipalities more of a say over costs and the administration of policing.
Under the current system, the North Grenville Police Services Board has five members: two members of the North Grenville Council, two citizens appointed by the Province as community representatives and one citizen appointed by Municipal Council as a community representative. The Board is responsible for setting the overall objectives and priorities for the provision of police service in the Municipality, after consultation with the Detachment Commander. It is also responsible for choosing and monitoring the performance of the Detachment Commander, overseeing the contract for service between the Municipality and the OPP, receiving monthly performance statistics of crime and prevention initiatives and for preparing a business plan. The new system would greatly weaken local control in these areas.
The UCLG Council debated the option of replacing the various OPP detachments in the region with a single police force to service the UCLG. However, there has been a number of objections made to this idea. Mayor Arie Hoogenboom of Rideau Lakes made the point that the OPP is already a regional police force. Other Counties mayors pointed out that the idea had been considered about ten years ago, and the costs involved in setting up such a regional force were prohibitive.
Mayor Nancy Peckford of North Grenville also expressed concerns that the new Police Services Board for Grenville would not have representation from all of the municipalities in the UCLG, and even if North Grenville had a seat on the Board, its concerns might not be attended to as they are under the current system. Mayor Peckford pointed out this municipality contains 35% of the entire population of UCLG, and, as the fastest growing municipality, is in a unique situation.
She believes that municipalities containing such a large percentage of the population should be allowed to opt out of the new Police Services Board structure. To that end, North Grenville has written to the Office of the Solicitor General of Ontario, making its case for exclusion, and has arranged a meeting with Solicitor General Sylvia Jones to brief her on their concerns.
Don Sherritt is Chair of the Board in this municipality, and he agrees with Mayor Peckford’s approach to the issue. He pointed out to the Times that the Board and Council “have worked in partnership to influence the forthcoming regulation to ensure that the spirit of Section 1(7) of the new Community Safety and Policing Act is respected…that “Policing shall be provided throughout Ontario in accordance with … need to ensure that police services and boards are representative of the communities they serve.”
Don also noted that we have 35% of the population of UCLG and worried about the loss of proper representation for municipalities, large and small, in the United Counties under the proposed new system: “We have concerns that this disparity in populations will create a negative perception that Municipalities are not receiving effective and efficient delivery of police services when it comes to their local needs. We need to avoid the situation where any Municipality whether large or small feels under represented.”