Talk of command changes at the Haliburton Highlands OPP detachment are disturbing, to say the least. We were first alerted that something might be up when told of a Nov. 2 meeting – brokered by the County – between the four mayors and CAOs with top OPP brass. The meeting was called by the locals, not the OPP, because they’d been hearing rumours that changes were coming.
Those rumours were that the detachment commander position would be eliminated in the County, and replaced by a manager.
They’d heard they’d essentially be a satellite of the City of Kawartha Lakes OPP. It appears the two sides had somewhat different takeaways from the meeting. The mayors interpreted the message as, if the townships don’t want this to happen, it won’t. However, the OPP interpretation, as of Nov. 14, is a bit different. They told The Highlander they would pause discussions until there is a Haliburton Highlands police services board.
It’s been mandated by the province but has still not been struck. Once the board is in place, discussions about efficiencies could resume, the OPP told us. They didn’t give us the impression if the townships don’t want it, it won’t happen. We’re certainly grateful for the pause on such a big decision.
Although the OPP say it wouldn’t affect day-to-day policing or manpower, we’re not convinced. Already, we have a detachment commander who has just returned from a lengthy secondment to Orillia.
This happens on a regular basis. We’d hate to see her replaced by a manager. The nuances of the position requires someone who knows policing and the area, not a pencil pusher or someone who can organize good spreadsheets. However, the most irksome thing is that rumours had to circulate for this discussion to take place. Our townships spend about $6 million on the OPP every year and they deserve more respect.
Changes being discussed must be shared with local politicians and the community. We know part of the problem is that we lack a proper police services board. The old community policing advisory committee (CPAC) never really worked. Basically, the commander would sit down with the mayors every month or so and discuss who was misbehaving in the community. All behind closed doors.
The media was excluded, and thus, the public was excluded.
It was a far cry from the police services board meetings in Lindsay for example. Criminal statistics and trends were discussed, while still maintaining the integrity of ongoing investigations. We do need a police services board so that politicians and civilian watchdogs can keep an eye on what they are getting for that $6M we are spending.
For far too long, the Haliburton Highlands detachment has been somewhat of an afterthought. Faced with a population that has grown by 14 per cent, that mentality has to change. We face challenges that include our geography. We cover 4,025 square kilometres.
Compare that to the province of P.E.I., at 5,660 sq km. And like all of Ontario, we have pressures due to our growth, in addition to high rates of poverty. We need more and better policing, not less.
Former Algonquin Highlands mayor Carol Moffatt is right. Suggesting we lose our detachment commander or become a satellite of CKL is insulting and a slap in the face to the Highlands. It’s time for the OPP to step up.