OPP presents its case to city
Updated 8 hours ago
For between $5 million to $5.2 million and about a half million dollars in start up costs, the Ontario Provincial Police says it can provide the city of Pembroke a similar level of police service it now enjoys.
That includes access to specialty services, guaranteed levels of service, shielding from legal costs and other perks.
One thing it doesn’t, and won’t, include is a new police building.
“That is the responsibility of the municipality to provide that,” said Ron Case, a member of the OPP’s contract policing section, who explained during a special city council meeting held Tuesday that would be true no matter what police service is around.
As part of their survey of police facilities while they were formulating a bid on services, the OPP examined the city police building at 169 William Street, and concluded it was in a state beyond a quick fix to make it suitable for occupation.
“It is probably beyond the state where we could retrofit it,” Sgt. Case said, adding a new facility would be needed anyway.
Back in December, Dave Hawkins, Pembroke’s police chief, told the police services board major work needs to be done on the current building to make it useable. Since Oct. 2010, one wing of the building has been sealed off and evacuated due to the presence of asbestos, the heating and air conditioning system is breaking down, the three-storey building itself isn’t fully accessible, and stairwells are problematic when it comes to prisoner security.
Additional holding cells and an upgrade to the cell area are needed to bring the department up to the standards of other provincial departments, with a new cell block wing/sally port needed to be constructed.
Paul Legault, also with the OPP’s contract policing section, said they consider the matter of the building separate from their contract for policing services, except to say some sort of suitable facility needs to be provided.
Coun. Pat Lafreniere asked if the city went with the OPP, would there be any grants or funding provided to help the municipality repair or rebuild a suitable police headquarters.
Sgt. Case said there may be “some opportunity” to get some money to assist, but there was no guarantee that would happen. However, there was definitely no chance of financial help for a building if the city stuck with their current police department.
Mayor Ed Jacyno said the local police costing committee, struck when the city decided to seek an OPP bid, has some ideas of how to deal with a home for the police service, but will be offering that as part of their presentation on Thursday, which will be their comments on the costing.
Late Tuesday afternoon, city council, along with a packed public gallery, heard from the OPP’s contract policing team and Upper Ottawa Valley OPP acting detachment commander Derek Needham, who presented two options presented to the city as the ones which would best meet their needs for 24/7 police protection and a dedicated police presence.
Sgt. Legault said the first option, the integrated model, would see Pembroke become a fourth zone of coverage based out of the Upper Ottawa Valley detachment. Under it, the current detachment’s front line officers will be expanded from 37 to 73, with the extra police used to cover the city. That would cost the city $5,013,951 annually. Another $471,754 in one time start up and capital costs would also need to be spent to get the new force up and running.
The second option, becoming a stand alone detachment of the OPP, will cost more - $5,229,204 plus $514,352 in start up costs - as it is more expensive to create a whole new detachment, rather than integrate with an existing one.
As for differences in police coverage, the OPP representatives said it wouldn’t be noticeable.
The acting detachment commander said the police go where the calls are, and cover for each other as the need arises. He said because Pembroke would be busier than a rural area, for instance, due to being in a built up area, the city would therefore get more police presence.
Asked if there is a risk Pembroke could lose its police protection because of this shifting to meet demand, Sgt. Needham really didn’t think it was possible.
“I really can’t imagine any time that would happen,” he said.
Sgt. Case said another way to think about it is currently the Pembroke police service has about 30 members, while if they were integrated with the Upper Ottawa Valley OPP, they would be part of a larger group of 73 officers, with access to greater resources. In some instances, that may improve their response times to emergency calls, just by virtue of numbers available to answer them.
Use of extra services would be included in the contract, so a lengthy search and rescue operation, for instance, involving dive teams, the canine unit, and the OPP helicopter won’t be charged to the city.
The OPP would be accountable to council through a police services board, which wouldn’t have to handle such things as grievances, disciplinary actions or contract negotiations, which can get costly if lawyers get involved. This same board would deal with ensuring service levels are being met throughout the municipality.
What wasn’t included in the costing was such items as severance packages, buy-outs and other matters which would have to be negotiated if and when the city makes its decision.
Sgt. Legault said in most cases, the current serving members of the Pembroke Police Service would be brought on board as OPP officers, with exceptions being due to injury, illness, or any criminal proceedings against them. All those would be dealt with on a case by case basis.
On Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m., the police costing committee will present its report on the matter, with LeeAnn McIntyre, the city’s treasurer, providing input on the financial implications.
On Wednesday, Feb. 22, the public, along with businesses and other interested organizations, will get a chance to wade into the discussion at a town hall public meeting being held 7 p.m. at the Pembroke Legion. People can also provide input online through the city’s website from Feb. 17 to March 1. Details of the OPP’s costing proposal and the police costing committee, once it is given on Thursday, will be posted there as well for the public’s perusal.
Council will then make a final decision on the matter at their regular meeting scheduled for March 6