A regional police force for Leeds and Grenville is back on the table following the provincial government’s move to amalgamate OPP police boards across Ontario.
Mayor Roger Haley of Front of Yonge said the government’s changes to the Police Services Act to create large detachment-wide police boards, instead of municipal ones, means that municipalities would have less say over policing and its costs.
Haley resurrected the idea of a regional force to replace the Ontario Provincial Police in Leeds and Grenville with a regional force similar to ones in Peel, Durham and Niagara.
“We’d have more say in the process, more say in the services, more say in the cost,” Haley told counties council.
Counties council considered the idea of a regional force about 10 years ago but rejected the idea as too costly. Haley said it is time to consider the idea again in light of the government’s changes to the act.
With the exception of Brockville and Gananoque, all Leeds and Grenville municipalities are policed by the OPP. Haley said any discussions about a regional force would have to include Brockville and Gan.
He presented a notice of motion for a future council meeting to have the idea debated then.
Some council members were cool to the idea of a regional force.
Mayor Arie Hoogenboom of Rideau Lakes said Leeds and Grenville already has a regional police force: “It’s called the OPP.”
Hoogenboom said his township is quite happy with the service and consultation provided by the OPP. The local detachment commander meets with his council three or four times a year, and the communication is good, he added.
Athens Mayor Herb Scott said counties council seriously debated a regional force about a decade ago but it rejected the idea after seeing the setup costs, which were “astronomical.”
If council wants to debate those ideas again, it should at least have those cost figures updated, Scott said.
North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford raised the OPP issue because her municipality is concerned about the government’s changes to how the OPP is governed.
The government wants to get rid of municipal police services boards governing the OPP and replace them with detachment-wide boards. For the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, it would mean its 10 municipalities would be served by two boards – one for the Grenville detachment, the other for Leeds.
The Grenville detachment, which also covers Prescott, has five municipalities while the Leeds detachment polices six.
Peckford said the new Police Services Act doesn’t guarantee that all municipalities will have a seat on the boards.
Under the government’s formula, a seven-member police services board would include three provincial appointees, leaving four seats for municipal representatives. That means that one or two municipalities would be left out in both Leeds and Grenville.
Peckford argues that North Grenville is unique among the other Leeds and Grenville municipalities. It is the largest in the United Counties and the fastest-growing, she said, giving it different policing challenges from the other municipalities.
Her municipality is concerned that it might not get a seat on the Grenville detachment board and that its concerns might not be heard even if it did, she said.
North Grenville has written proposed changes to the new police act legislation and it hopes to persuade the government to adopt them.
Peckford said her council proposes that municipalities with more than 35 per cent of the detachment’s population – such as North Grenville – be allowed to opt out of the detachment board and form its own.
She said North Grenville has arranged a meeting with the solicitor general’s department to make its case.