Another one bites the dust
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | September 21, 2017|
While the cost of policing continues to soar across Haliburton County, the service – at least from a senior management perspective at our local OPP detachment – has remained as detached as ever.
We learned yesterday that OPP commander, Staff Sgt. Richard Riopelle, has left after being in the job roughly a year. The news came via an e-mail to the CPAC (Community Policing Advisory Committee), chaired by Algonquin Highlands mayor Carol Moffatt. Needless to say, Moffatt is none too pleased. Neither is County Warden Brent Devolin. Neither are we.
Moffatt and Devolin used the term ‘revolving door’ to describe the position. Riopelle joined the local detachment only last July. He said he was committed to making a home in the Highlands. In fact, he purchased a home and moved his wife and triplet daughters to the community.
In an interview with The Highlander last summer, he talked about some of his goals, such as reducing property-related crimes and animal-vehicle collisions.
Ironically, a new batch of deer warning signs has just gone up on area highways, a bit of a swan song to mark Riopelle’s impact.
From the sounds of it, he wasn’t always around anyway, often seconded to Orillia, where his new job is now. Quite frankly, we didn’t hear much from the commander over the last year. Our inquiries tended to go to Const. Tim Negus or Dianna Dauphinee, who manage police communications. So, as far as keeping the public informed to the extent the OPP wants it to be informed, the change won’t affect us much.
Nevertheless, the county deserves better. When the last commander, Chad Bark, arrived, municipal politicians knew he’d be around only a few years before retiring. He stayed four and his departure did not come as a surprise.
This one has. We expected a bit more from the new commander in terms of longevity. By taking this step, it’s clear that headquarters in Orillia isn’t too concerned about continuity, consistency and steady leadership of policing in Haliburton County.
This lack of consistent leadership complicates local policing. Staff at the cop shop on Highway 35 in Minden have to get used to someone new at the helm – again – someone with a different personality and different ideas about policing in the county. One has to wonder why anyone would listen to those ideas when the next commander could be yanked at any moment.
Municipal politicians have spent the better part of the past year bringing Riopelle up to speed, helping him to know the nuances of the community. Now, they have to begin anew with someone else. It must be frustrating. It’s a waste of time.
To taxpayers, who pay a large part of our municipal levy towards policing, it’s aggravating. Clearly, we are simply managed at a distance from Orillia HQ. We do have police officers in this community who’ve been around a long time. They know the place. They have a vested interest in staying, making long-term plans to address specific problems – and ultimately solving or limiting those problems.
But when the force itself sees no value in consistency or leadership, we cannot say we have a partner in policing. That leaves us as yet another ‘client’ of an organization we cannot hold to account – or in many cases, even talk to.
Years after we learned of budget-busting increases to our OPP levies, the county has still not demonstrated – other than by quoting hearsay and anecdote – that our own police force is not financially viable. Until they do, we’ll never know if we have the opportunity to close that revolving door.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.