Al Frederick

Bulk of speakers at OCPC hearing want Amherstburg Police Service to remain

 

 

By Pat Bailey & Ron Giofu

 

Amherstburg residents, as well as the Amherstburg Police Service and Windsor Police Service will have to wait about a month before learning if Windsor will indeed take over the policing of the county municipality.

But if Amherstburg residents get their way, the status quo would remain.

At a special hearing of the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) at the Libro Centre last Tuesday, only one local resident spoke out in favour of the proposed deal during the morning, afternoon and evening sessions.

John McDonald was the lone resident who lent his support to the proposal. He said if the sharing of equipment and resources result in a financial savings to the town, he’s in favour of council’s decision to give it a try.

The contract is for 20 years, with the ability to review how it’s working out for both parties, every five years. It also allows for each party to opt out of the agreement given 18 months notice. The length of the contract was questioned at the evening meeting, as some seemed unaware that there were review periods every five years.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the information has been public for some time and that the 20 year period was added due to concerns from residents that five years was not enough. He said the media “zeroed in” on the 20-year term of the contract in its reporting.

But Nancy Atkinson, 73, who’s lived here most of her life had one question to ask.

“Why are we here today?” she asked as she made her submission before the OCPC and about 30 others in attendance.

For Atkinson, the recent announcement of an investigation into the Windsor Police Service should have at least served to postpone the application.

“To have this application move forward at this time does not look to effective and adequate policing for our community,” she said.

Nancy Atkinson presents her submission before the Ontario Civilian Police Commission opposing the takeover of policing in Amherstburg by the Windsor Police Service. (Photo by Pat Bailey)

But WPS Chief Al Frederick said the investigation has no real bearing on whether his police service can provide effective and adequate policing in Amherstburg, the test that they must pass if the OCPC is to approve the application.

The issues, said Frederick, are related to human resources, such as hiring and promotions, not their ability to serve and protect. He told the crowd at the evening session that “all police services are subject to oversight” and that Windsor police are working with investigators. He expects recommendations on how to improve the service to come out of the investigation.

“I embrace that,” said Frederick. “I don’t run from that. It doesn’t frighten me. I’m completely open to this.”

Frederick also told the group that if not for the fact that Amherstburg and Windsor are not contiguous municipalities, they indeed, would not have to appear before the OCPC.

He said since they do not share a border, the OCPC, a civilian watchdog agency that oversees policing in Ontario, must approve the application, based on whether it believes Windsor can provide adequate and effective policing, despite having LaSalle separate the two.

But Atkinson called for respect for the Amherstburg police, a service, she said that has offered a history of effective and adequate policing which has resulted in Amherstburg being named one of the safest communities in Canada on several occasions.

Denise Bondy echoed Atkinson’s call to nix the application.

She said Frederick’s talk of enhancements to services is not needed in a community such as Amherstburg. She said comparing Windsor’s issues of drugs and murder to the problems in a small town like Amherstburg is more or less comparing apples to oranges.

“Windsor Police Service has issues, big city issues like guns, drugs, gangs, murder and violence in the downtown core and all that come with the border crossings,” she said. “To date this year, Windsor has five murders,” she added, “I don’t think Amherstburg has had five murders since the inception of our own police department.”

So, she said they have no need for the enhancements Frederick spoke of which include bomb dogs, tactical teams, etc.

To questions regarding the changes to the current Amherstburg Police Service, Frederick said policing in Amherstburg will not change.

He said the department will employ the same officers and civilian staff they have now. He said Amherstburg incidents will be handled by Amherstburg officers with the only time Windsor would step in, he said, is if the local department needed use of some of Windsor’s experts or special units.

He assured the group no Windsor cruisers will be speeding through LaSalle to respond to local calls.

As far as Frederick is concerned, Amherstburg will enjoy a cost savings of up to $859,000 annually, while council has that number pegged at about $567,000.

In closing, Bondy pleaded with the OCPC to veto the application.

“The Amherstburg Police Service is effective and more than adequate for the needs of our community,” she said. “Please don’t make it less so by approving this application.”

“It’s not broken,” she concluded, “don’t try to fix it.”

Frank Cleminson, a former member of the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB), said that the town’s original 2014 motion called for a costing proposal from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and to solicit local municipalities as to the concept of sharing police services. He outlined the process and stated that a Sept. 14, 2017 letter from the OPP stated that the OPP would not participate in the process, that the town had not responded to several requests from the OPP to meet with council and that a renewed motion of council was requested by Sept. 30, 2017.

Cleminson said the evidence he presented “clearly shows” that “council’s motion of Dec. 14, 2014 was not acted upon by administration nor was the motion ever rescinded” and that “administration failed to respond to multiple requests from the OPP for a meeting.”

Citing quotes form Mayor Aldo DiCarlo in July 10, 2017 media articles, Cleminson contended that DiCarlo “still believed the OPP were about to deliver a costing proposal” and alleged that administration “failed to advise council of the Sept. 30, 2017 deadline to renew its interest with the OPP that resulted from the lack of communication from administration.”

Cleminson was not asking for the OCPC to refuse the town’s application, but not to provide approval “until such time as the town receives another costing proposal from the OPP (which we all know provides adequate and effective municipal policing) or council formally rescinds its motion of Dec. 14, 2014.”

The Sept. 14, 2017 OPP letter, signed by superintendent commander of the municipal policing bureau Marc Bedard and addressed to DiCarlo, states that the OPP utilizes the information manual for the OPP Contract Proposal Process for all contract proposals.

“We have successfully been using this process since 2016 for the 14 Ontario communities that requested an OPP contract proposal,” Bedard’s letter stated. “The process prescribed in your Request for Proposal differs in significant ways from the process described in our manual. As a result the OPP cannot participate in your Request for Proposal.”

Bedard wrote that “we have made several attempts to schedule an initial information session to explain to your council the OPP contract proposal process. Since we have not been provided the opportunity to do so, we recommend that you and your council familiarize yourself with the Information Manual, as it outlines all the steps involved in the contract process. This manual is kept relevant and up to date. Should your municipality still wish to proceed with a contract proposal for OPP policing services according to the timelines and processes described in the Information Manual for the OPP Contract Proposal process, we require a confirmation by way of Council resolution by September 30th, 2017.”

A number of residents at the evening session also voiced concerns with the application to have Amherstburg policing switch to Windsor police while the latter is under investigation by the OCPC.

“I think the commission should take into consideration there are residents who are concerned,” said Gregory Moore.

Moore called for the decision to be put off either until the next council or until the investigation is complete. He also questioned response times and whether Windsor police officers would be working in Windsor, noting that the environment is different in Amherstburg than in Windsor.

Windsor deputy chief Pam Mizuno emphasized that under the proposal, Amherstburg officers would still respond to Amherstburg calls and be based out of the current police station. She added that the number of officers responding to calls in town would not change and that “Windsor police officers will not be speeding through the Town of LaSalle to get to the Town of Amherstburg,” Mizuno said.

Kevin Sprague said he already had concerns but he now has “even more serious concerns” after learning about the OCPC’s investigation into the Windsor Police Service.

“If any of these allegations are found to be accurate as a result of the current investigation, I do not feel that the Windsor Police Service will be capable of providing adequate and effective policing to the Town of Amherstburg,” said Sprague. “The Town of Amherstburg currently has a professional, adequate, effective and efficient policing service that makes Amherstburg one of the safest communities in Canada and switching to the Windsor Police Service at this time would be disturbing and inappropriate based on the current ongoing investigation which has just recently been made public.”

Sprague added he has received quick service when he has had to call the Amherstburg Police Service but has had to wait hours for service in Windsor. He said he does not want the latter level of service coming to Amherstburg.

“This would not be adequate and effective policing,” he stated.

Sprague believed any decision to abolish the Amherstburg Police Service should be delayed until the investigation in Windsor is done and a final report publicly released.

Local resident and lawyer Anthony Leardi cited the issue of severance pay, stating the abolition of the Amherstburg Police Service “involves the contracts of approximately 30 police officers. This is a large number of police officers.”

Anthony Leardi addresses the OCPC hearing during last Tuesday’s evening session. Leardi requested that the OCPC deny the Town of Amherstburg’s request to abolish the Amherstburg Police Service and contract policing services out to the Windsor Police Service.

Leardi added: “The Amherstburg Police Service will cease to exist as a result of council’s decision. That means all of the police officers, the thirty or more of them, have their employment terminated. They would be entitled to severance pay. They have no obligation to seek employment with Windsor Police Services. The submission made by the Town of Amherstburg does not confirm that there are written agreements in place regarding severance pay. In fact, the submission confirms the opposite: there are no agreements in place at all.”

While speaking at the hearing, Leardi quoted a section of the town’s submission and stated “At this stage it is expected that all serving members will accept positions with the Windsor Police Service. If someone chooses not to do so, a suitable settlement will be negotiated for that employee with a fallback to mandatory arbitration if a settlement cannot be agreed upon” and contended that statements confirms that the town has not made any agreement dealing with severance pay.

“If that is the case, then the town has not complied with section 40(1) of the (Police Services) Act,” said Leardi.

Leardi also believed the process used by the town “excluded the OPP from participated.” He also used the Sept. 14, 2017 OPP letter as an example and it was Leardi’s contention that “the Town of Amherstburg specifically prevented the OPP from participating in the process. The Town of Amherstburg did this by failing to submit a request using the OPP Contract Manual. If the Town of Amherstburg had submitted the request using the OPP Contract Manual, then the OPP would have been able to bid on this contract. I am highlighting this fact simply to make it clear that Windsor Police Service was not the only party interested in providing policing services to Amherstburg. The OPP was also interested but was prevented from participating.”

Leardi requested that the OCPC deny the town’s application to abolish the Amherstburg Police Service.

Pat Simone addressed the hearing, stating her comments were her own opinions and “in no way reflect the opinions of any committees that I may sit on.”

“As I stated at the February council meeting, when council was deciding this matter, there is a human rights complaint against the Windsor Police Service and we have now learned that there are a number of other complaints against the Windsor Police Service,” said Simone. “If these are substantiated it indicates that Windsor is antiquated and treats its employees poorly. How do you think Windsor will deal with outside personnel if it is substantiated with their own employees?   I feel that the outcomes of the complaints will have an impact on this contract. If Amherstburg policing moves to Windsor, we will be following Windsor policy and procedures. We need to ensure that we are putting our officers in an environment that is fair and has equal opportunity for all. If we are putting the officers in an unfair work environment this is not adequate and effective for the officers and/or residents.”

Simone added that the Ontario Police Service Act clearly defines the minimum that is requires by a police service to provide “adequate and effective service.” She said while Windsor police may fit the criteria, “I feel the residents of Amherstburg deserve more. Could OPP provide a more adequate and effective force? This will not be known as the OPP made several attempts to speak with council to discuss the town of Amherstburg RFP process but the OPP received no response from council. The residents of Amherstburg deserve the most adequate and effective force. We don’t know if we’re getting that with Windsor if we don’t know what OPP will provide.”

Also questioned was the Windsor police business plan, as Simone noted the last business plan available online is dated 2011-13 and the last annual report was dated 2012. She also questioned response times and the Windsor police’s efficiency.

“My thoughts this evening are not meant to be an emotional appeal but to provide my thoughts on whether this contract will provide adequate and effective policing for Amherstburg. In my opinion there are too many questions and issues that still need to be determined,” said Simone.

Const. Shawn McCurdy, president of the Amherstburg Police Association, said approximately 75 per cent of his membership want to remain with the Amherstburg Police Service.

“Nothing against Windsor. We have an excellent relationship with them,” said McCurdy.

Windsor police chief Al Frederick and deputy chief Pam Mizuno address questions from the public during the evening portion of the OCPC hearings at the Libro Centre June 26.

McCurdy said the association is “actively working” on the severance issue and that the association was assured that everyone would be offered a position with the Windsor Police Association, should the OCPC grant its approval.

OCPC associate chair Stephen Javanovic said they have reviewed transcripts of the four public meetings and the petitions they have been sent. He said their role is to determine whether adequate and effective policing would be obtained under the proposal and to listen to the concerns of the public.

DiCarlo outlined the Windsor Police Services’ proposal, stating Amherstburg will “exist as a distinct entity within the Windsor Police Service,” the town will be policed by the same officers that are currently serving with the Amherstburg Police Service, all officers and civilians will work out of the existing Amherstburg police station and that “despite any problems that might be identified during the OCPC investigation, the policing environment and culture in Amherstburg will remain as it is.”

The mayor stated “the exceptionally high level of public safety in Amherstburg will continue,” the town will “continue to have effective control” of policing, existing staff will be treated fairly, there will be “significant” annual savings with the Windsor proposal providing “significant future cost avoidance,” and added “the contract will provide detailed, practical measures that ensure that Amherstburg could realistically reconstitute a municipal police service in the future.”

 

Council, JPAC get another earful over possible police switch

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Two more public meetings on the proposed switching of police services from Amherstburg to Windsor were held last week with large crowds wanting their voice on the matter.

Approximately 65 people attended last Thursday night’s meeting at St. Peter’s ACHS College School while over 100 attended a Saturday meeting at the Libro Centre, the latter lasting approximately three hours.

The majority of the residents in attendance voiced opposition to switching from the Amherstburg Police Service to the Windsor Police Service though there were some supportive opinions during the two meetings.

John Miceli, the town’s chief administrative officer (CAO) and chair of the Joint Police Advisory Committee (JPAC), pointed out policing currently takes up 23 per cent of the town’s total operating budget. He emphasized that it will be town council who will make the final decision, and that decision is scheduled for Feb. 26.

The community room at the Libro Centre was packed for the Jan. 27 meeting on the policing issue. (Submitted photo)

Mike Mitchell, a consultant from MPM Consulting, said the town’s Request for Proposal (RFP) is “quite a comprehensive document” and is available for public viewing on the town’s website. Mitchell added the Windsor police proposal addresses all the concerns laid out by the JPAC while Miceli stated the “town is committed to an accountable and transparent process.”

Many members of the public weren’t buying what the JPAC officials were saying, including Ross Scott who questioned Mayor Aldo DiCarlo as to why this process was taking place.

Denise Bondy holds up a photo of her father – former Amherstburg police chief George Hannah – during a public meeting at St. Peter’s ACHS College School Jan. 25.

“This issue has never been about service or service levels,” said DiCarlo. He said it was caused by people who were questioning candidates during the 2014 election about policing costs and wanting options.

Windsor police chief Al Frederick said Amherstburg has “an excellent police service” but believed public safety could be enhanced if the service was switched. Frederick noted crimes are “borderless” today and “your high school students are being victimized every day.”

Amherstburg police chief Tim Berthiaume said the current service is as efficient as it can get.

“We never stop looking for efficiencies in the police service,” he said. “We are already running as lean as we can be but we never stop looking.”

Berthiaume cited $240,000 in savings from switching the dispatch to Windsor.

Scott called the process “ludicrous” and put his support behind the Amherstburg Police Service.

“I am quite satisfied with Amherstburg police. I am proud to say I taught many of them and they are good people,” said Scott. “I have no problem with Windsor police but, in my opinion, Amherstburg can do a fine job.”

Denise Bondy reiterated a previous position that the decision was too important to be made in haste and with less than the full council. Two members of council – Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Councillor Diane Pouget – have sought legal advice and have declared a conflict of interest.

Bondy called for the public to have a vote in whether they want policing switched.

Dan Ouellette said he feels safe in Amherstburg and commended the current officers.

“I’m very happy with the police force we have,” he said.

“I like the Amherstburg police force,” added Nancy Atkinson. “I think they are doing a fine job.”

Atkinson said she didn’t see the need for enhanced services like bomb squads and the other, with enhanced services also being questioned by others. Miceli said the enhanced services would come to Amherstburg, if needed, free of charge though noted OPP doesn’t currently charge for services and “may or may not” in the future.

Frederick pointed out there was an explosive ordinance that washed up in Amherstburg several months ago that Windsor police detonated.

“It does happen,” he said. “It happened here recently.”

Another look at the packed house at the Libro Centre Jan. 27.

Frederick, when addressing a different question, said they are “staffed well in Windsor” and that he doesn’t foresee pulling resources from Amherstburg to Windsor in case of a major crime. The JPAC has stated that all current Amherstburg officers would stay in Amherstburg and leave only if they pursue promotional opportunities.

George Kritiotis said he believes in the officers with the Amherstburg Police Service.

“I don’t think any service would police Amherstburg better than the Amherstburg Police Service,” he said.

Kritiotis questioned why Windsor doesn’t use body-worn cameras with Frederick replying that no large municipality currently employs them and that he wants to see what added value he brings.

“I never said I don’t want them,” he said.

Berthiaume said the difference in Amherstburg is its size, adding it’s “a completely different animal” in Windsor.

“We are small enough (to have body-worn cameras). We can handle the capability ourselves,” said Berthiaume. “I’m a firm believer in them for the community. It’s a good fit for our community and our people.”

Kritiotis questioned whether Miceli was in conflict due to the CAO being a former Windsor employee but DiCarlo defended the CAO. The mayor said that if people wanted to lay blame and hate someone, go through him, adding that any thoughts of Miceli being behind a conspiracy is “absolute nonsense.”

Paul Hertel called for town council to receive a more thorough report that goes beyond the RFP.

“If council has no JPAC report content on this issue, it must search elsewhere. I believe the public is entitled to understand the thinking of its duly elected representatives and expects more articulation than a mumble of platitudes,” said Hertel.

Hertel also questioned what the timeline is for implementation and what the implications are for the dissolution of the local police force and police services board. He also wondered implications would come into place if Amherstburg is added to the Windsor Police Services Board.

“Based on the public meetings so far, and my readings, I am unconvinced that the community finds merit in the current proposal,” said Hertel. “Notwithstanding the answers to my questions, there appears to be neither evidence of urgency or failed community policing. Contracting out police services is not an option and I hope the final JPAC report to Amherstburg council will acknowledge the views of our citizens.”

“We are very comfortable with what we have,” added Tracey Matte. “The savings aren’t enough to make us switch from what we have.”

It is projected the town would save $567,802 annually by switching to Windsor.

Others agreed that the savings wasn’t enough, with some voicing they would be glad to pay an extra $61 on their taxes. That is the average amount per household that would be saved.

Frank Cleminson, who spoke at both of the first two meetings, pressed for transparency in the process and how numbers were arrived at.

“I’m still concerned with how you arrived at these savings,” said Cleminson. “If you have the numbers, you should be able to put them up and explain the savings.”

“There is no hidden agenda here,” responded Frederick. “There is no hokey-pokey with numbers. I have nothing to gain by pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes with regards to finance.”

Frederick said Berthiaume and Amherstburg deputy chief Ian Chappell would be offered sworn positions with Windsor police and that accounts for some of the savings.

“We are being transparent and accountable,” he said. “I have no interest in this other than supplying a superior police service at a cheaper cost.”

Among questions posed by Marc Pillon were the reduction of operating costs but noted many residents would rather pay for the existing service.

“It is emotional,” he said. “We are saying this is not what we want.”

Tim Ackerson indicated there are studies that show small forces manage operating costs effectively and that local forces have an intimate knowledge of the town. Ackerson said his position was a “weak no” but there could be opportunities in the future.

“It’s not the right time,” said Ackerson. “In the future, maybe it will be.”

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins said there was a regional policing study done several years ago that showed a benefit to the region. He said the town would receive the same level of service should the proposal be accepted with same same officers, vehicles and shift schedules.

“We can do this and save the town $560,000,” said Dilkins.

Dilkins added that “no one is not trying to be transparent” but there are police functions that are included in the proposal that can’t be stated publicly by law.

“We can’t de-risk this more for the Town of Amherstburg,” said Dilkins. “We can’t.”

Other towns have switched to OPP and maintained their identity, he added, and predicted the same would be true of Amherstburg should a switch to Windsor police occur.

“You will not lose your identity based on one decision,” Dilkins told the crowd at the Libro Centre Saturday afternoon. “You are too strong of a town for that to happen.”

Michael Prue, a former MPP and mayor from the GTA, said after 26 years in politics, he learned to “forget the money” if it comes down to what the public wants versus cost considerations.

“To me, the fundamental problem is the town will lose control,” said Prue. “The Amherstburg Police Services Board is essential. It states where the police service should be going.”

Prue added it is the wishes of the public that are the most important.

“The people of the town make the town,” he said. “Give them what they want. It’s the town and it’s what they are going to pass down to their children.”

Len Paquette didn’t believe the right questions were asked during the JPAC process, adding his belief that the process was being “sugar coated” and that not all the facts were being released.

“If you break it down, it’s 17 cents per day,” he added.

Don Brown, an Amherstburg resident and member of the Amherstburg Police Service, said many officers already have specialized training and it is similar to what Windsor officers have. Steve Owen, another Amherstburg resident and Amherstburg officer, questioned how long the JPAC had to review the proposal, noting there have been rumours of them only reviewing it 20-30 minutes.

Miceli said the motion from JPAC was to move the process forward and “no one forced anyone to agree or not agree with the motion.”

Owen added they offer accident reconstruction and VIP in Amherstburg, with that latter seeing ten visits to a Grade 6 class by an officer. He told the public while there is a concern that there is a concern the town isn’t listening to them, the police officers are.

Shawn McCurdy, another Amherstburg officer and president of the Amherstburg Police Association, said they have a great working relationship with Windsor and have respect for the service but the majority of members want to stay with their own service.

“I think the public needs to know that many of us want to stay in Amherstburg,” he said.

Glenn Swinton questioned whether dispatch is on top of the policing proposal or included. He was told it was a matching up of contract terms with Dilkins noting that if Amherstburg were to return to its own force after five years, they could still have dispatch services.

Should a switch back to Amherstburg occur down the road, Swinton also questioned the shape the assets returning to the town would be in. He also had questions about the JPAC itself, wondering who drafted the terms of reference. DiCarlo said administration created them and they were approved by council.

The crowd listens to the JPAC presentation at St. Peter’s ACHS College School Jan. 25.

In a written notice, Swinton called for the disbarment of the JPAC, alleging several members were in conflict. He believed DiCarlo was in conflict for having a relative on the force while Berthiaume was an employee of Amherstburg police. Swinton’s letter also named Councillor Rick Fryer, alleging conflict due to “legal issues having been put before the APD” from members of his family including the issue involving

The process of electing a chair and vice-chair was also questioned with Miceli being appointed chair of the JPAC.

Swinton stated in a letter that he was taking the matter to the town’s integrity commissioner. Swinton questioned during the meeting when a Friday JPAC meeting was actually called, with Miceli responding it was called two days previous and placed on the town’s website.

Among those in support of the Windsor police proposal was Judy Carter. Carter said she had no reason to doubt that Amherstburg police provides an excellent service. She did say she was concerned about her tax dollars and how they are spent.

“I’m retired. I don’t have a money tree in the backyard,” she said.

Carter said she supports switching to the Windsor police service, adding she hopes more people with opinions like hers speak up.

“I do support the proposal because of the enhancements it provides to the town,” said Carter.

Sarah Gibb said she was a “soft yes” for the Windsor police proposal. She didn’t believe it should go to a public ballot as she feared that residents wouldn’t educate themselves fully and vote out of fear, the latter which she said is “all over the internet.”

There will be some savings but they are “savings nonetheless,” she said. She urged the town to place the savings into a reserve and not use the money for any “surprise giveaways.” Should the town maintain the status quo, there is no guarantee there won’t be increased costs to cover it, she believed.

“I feel the Windsor Police Service is a viable option,” she said.

Gibb added: “I would feel sad to see the local service go, out of nostalgia, I suppose.”

Noting it is a stressful time for people in the community, Gibb pointed out there would be no job losses for current Amherstburg police members.

“I choose to see this as an opportunity for our town and its police officers,” said Gibb.

The decision on whether or not to switch will come Feb. 26 and DiCarlo suggested the meeting be moved to a larger venue than the council chambers to accommodate the crowd. It might also be the lone agenda item that night.

In the meantime, the town states it is going to come up with phone and online surveys to further gauge public opinion.

Public gives feedback on the future of policing in Amherstburg

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Two public meetings down, two to go on whether or not to switch from the Amherstburg Police Service to the Windsor Police Service.

Thus far, many of the people who have spoken at the meetings oppose a switch with the feeling being that the town should “not fix what isn’t broken.”

A number of residents spoke at each of the first two public meetings, held last Wednesday night at the Amherstburg Municipal Building and last Thursday night at the K of C Hall in McGregor. One resident who spoke at both meetings was Frank Cleminson, a former member of the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB).

Windsor police chief Al Frederick (right) addresses a question during a public meeting last Thursday night. At left is Amherstburg police chief Tim Berthiaume. Two more public meetings are planned for this week.

Cleminson, who chaired the APSB at points during his 11-year tenure on the board, said Windsor police carries a per capita cost of $450 per person while Amherstburg’s is $270. He also called for greater transparency, something he hasn’t seen so far in his review of the Request for Proposal (RFP) documents.

“I’m not seeing it in the RFP,” he said of transparency. “You’ve arrived at numbers and I’m not seeing how you got them.”

Windsor police chief Al Frederick said while 90 per cent of costs are tied up in salaries and benefits, the bulk of the other budget line items could be reduced if the contract for service is given to Windsor police. Frederick added there are savings in dispatch and additional savings would be achieved through the elimination of the chief and deputy chief position and replacing them with a senior officer.

The high per capita costs, he explained, were due to Windsor having to have the same services and units offered by a regional police service but Windsor doesn’t have the ability to spread costs throughout a region.

John Miceli, the town’s chief administrative officer (CAO) and chair of the Joint Police Advisory Committee (JPAC), said “we are as transparent as can be in the public process” and said people can file a request under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) for more information.

“You have the privilege at the Amherstburg Police Services Board of seeing everything line-by-line and people had to trust you,” Miceli told Cleminson. “I find it very difficult that you don’t trust the JPAC committee in doing the same thing.”

Denise Bondy believed “this is a change that should be resisted at the present time.”

“If it’s not broken, why fix it?” she asked.

Bondy said Amherstburg “is not a big city” and needs a small town feel with policing. She said the loss of autonomy would be important and also questioned the timing, believing it was happening too quickly as the bid came in during October and a decision is planned for Feb. 26.

“It’s an election year,” Bondy pointed out. “Couldn’t we take a little time and let the people of Amherstburg vote on this? I’m not saying don’t change. I’m saying let’s not be hasty.”

James Bruce of Amherstburg holds up a sign during last Wednesday’s police community consultation meeting at town hall.

“If it isn’t broken, why the heck are you fixing it?” Susan Monaghan asked.

Noting she is a pensioner with a desire for council to be “thrifty,” Monaghan still voiced concerns about the local police losing some accountability.

“Our police service will be part of a larger bureaucracy,” Monaghan stated.

Frank DiPasquale questioned if there are some savings that could be achieved under a contract with Windsor police on such things as fuel, could they be offered now without having to switch? DiPasquale also had issues with two members of council possibly not voting on the matter due to conflicts of interest.

“That’s a big concern to me,” said DiPasquale.

Tom Miller noted that he was pulled over recently in Amherstburg and “the cop was so friendly, it made me want to pay the ticket.” He believed the “brotherhood” among police officers would ensure that other municipalities are covered off if they need extra units such as K-9 units or bomb squads.

“One thing that worries me is Amherstburg’s identity,” said Miller. “I like that small town feeling.”

Miller also had concerns with the possibility of two members of council declaring a conflict, stating that having five people vote on the matter is not “fair in my book.”

Amherstburg resident Frank Cleminson, a former chair of the Amherstburg Police Services Board (APSB), asks a question at the Jan. 18 public meeting in McGregor. Cleminson also had questions at the Jan. 17 meeting at town hall.

Ron Sutherland, another former APSB member and also a former deputy mayor, agreed that it should be brought to the voters.

“I believe this should be on the ballot for the next election,” said Sutherland.

Debbie Bezaire told committee members that she experienced hospital amalgamations and wondered if promised savings will stay in effect going forward.

“As a taxpayer, what is going to happen in 13 years or ten years? Are the savings going to be there in the future?”

“I think there is a lot of fear of the unknown with this proposal,” believed Chad Barrette. If there were a guarantee of savings beyond the initial five-year period, some of the fear would be taken away.

Larry Amlin said he believes the Windsor Police Service is an excellent one and believes that other municipalities are keeping a close eye on this process. Should Amherstburg town council accept the offer, “I see it as one step towards regional policing.”

Kevin Sprague said the $567,000 in proposed annual savings the town would receive by switching to Windsor police isn’t worth it.

“I have serious concerns as a taxpayer in Amherstburg if we lose our cost-effective police service,” he said. “I strongly suggest that saving $567,000 is not worth fixing what isn’t broken.”

Sprague, who also believes it is an election issue, said he feels that the town would eventually be policed like “a big city” as local officers would take advantage of promotion opportunities and move into Windsor. He added that he has had to deal with the Amherstburg Police Service on various matters and has received quick responses.

“I do not want to risk losing this service,” said Sprague.

The option to switch back to Amherstburg after five years won’t happen, he believed and that the town should “put something else on the chopping block” if they want to save $567,000. Sprague added that no one he has spoken with is in favour of switching to Windsor police.

“The town of LaSalle made the right choice (to stay with their police service) and we need to make the right one as well,” said Sprague.

Len Paquette told Frederick and the Windsor officers in attendance Thursday night – including Deputy Chief Vince Power, Staff Sgt. Ron LeClair and Superintendent Brendon Dodd – that “you are not coming here to help us out. You are coming here to make money. You are doing a good job but, at the end of the day, you are going to make money off of the town.”

Paquette endorsed the existing service and the members thereof and believed the costs would be too high if the town elects to switch back in five years.

“Mr. Miceli, you are a great guy but try not to talk us into something we don’t want,” Paquette told the CAO.

Other residents also questioned the potential savings, including Chris Drew. He said Amherstburg could access extra services from the OPP, if necessary, and said he figures that Amherstburg has a more cost efficient service than Windsor.

“I consider this a slap in the face to the Amherstburg Police Service and its members,” said Drew.

Current Amherstburg police officers also had questions. Don Brown, an Amherstburg resident and a sergeant with the Amherstburg Police Service, asked a number of questions and also pointed out losing the chief means losing the “captain of the ship.

“The captain of the ship steers the direction of the service,” said Brown. “We will be losing the chief, the board and the captain of the ship. I want to make that point to the public.”

Const. Shawn McCurdy, president of the Amherstburg Police Association, admitted it has been a stressful time for them but told the public they can still expect the same level of service from the officers as they always had regardless of what happens.

Chris Gibb asked what costs the Amherstburg Police Service would face should the switch not happen. Amherstburg police chief Tim Berthiaume stated they face “infrastructure challenges” which include issues with their radio system. He is recommending replacement in 2019, should the switch to Windsor not happen, and that he hopes to spread the estimated $450,000 cost over five years.

“The Amherstburg Police Service has a healthy reserve,” Berthiaume added. “That’s why we created the reserve.”

Regarding their obligations under Bill 175, including whether they would be obligated to police waterways, Berthiaume said they are preparing for that should any requirements call for Amherstburg police to have to step up patrols on the water. He said they would patrol waterways with existing resources.

Responding to Gibb’s second question regarding access to the chief, deputy chief and police services board should a switch happen, Frederick said he hopes Berthiaume would be the “point person in the transition” as “we need this to work seamlessly and positively as possible.”

In presenting the proposal to the public, Miceli pointed out Amherstburg is a safe community but policing costs represent 23 per cent of the town’s operating budget. A Deloitte report recommendation was to seek shared opportunities that would reduce operating costs, said Miceli, with town council asking for confirmation that people were receiving “value for money” with the current service and examine other options for policing. Town council passed the original motion seeking police costings Dec. 15, 2014.

“Amherstburg has an excellent service,” said Miceli. “In no way is this exercise a reflection on the Amherstburg Police Service.”

Frederick said the Amherstburg Police Service offers a department that is “second to none” and “it’s not going to change” should a switch occur.

Miceli said that town council will make the decision Feb. 26 and told the public no verdict has been arrived at thus far.

Those in attendance to field questions at last Thursday night’s meeting in McGregor included (from left): consultant Mike Mitchell, CAO and JPAC chair John Miceli, Amherstburg police chief Tim Berthiaume, Windsor police chief Al Frederick, Windsor deputy chief Vince Power, Windsor police Supt. Brendan Dodd, and Windsor Staff Sgt. Ron LeClair.

“There has been no decision made yet on the policing issue,” he said. “We are going through the public meeting process to see what people want.”

Believing “there has been a lot of misinformation out there,” the CAO encouraged people to attend the public meetings, find out what is going on and provide input.

Mike Mitchell, consultant with MPM Consulting, called the RFP put out by the town as “one of the most comprehensive RFP’s I’ve ever seen.” LaSalle opted not to put in a bid with the OPP sending a letter, but no bid, in response to the RFP.

The Windsor Police Service would take over administrative duties with the only change residents seeing being the replacement of the chief and deputy chief with a senior officer, said Mitchell.

“The big issue is it is only the administration of Amherstburg police that will be handled in Windsor,” said Frederick. “The police service is going to be what it is today. We’re not going to have Windsor police officers responding to Priority 1 calls in Amherstburg.”

Frederick said Amherstburg police officers could stay in town “as long as they like.”

Findings of the JPAC committee included Windsor police proposal administering existing staff in existing organizational units, the continuation of service delivery, existing Amherstburg officers and staff “working exclusively” for Amherstburg, the town being able to keep the existing Amherstburg police station, police continuing to respond to all calls for service and “through the terms of the contract and membership on the Windsor Police Services board, effective, local control of policing in the town would continue.”

The Amherstburg mayor would become a voting member of the Windsor Police Services Board, should a switch occur.

The JPAC findings also said additional services like K-9, tactical, explosive disposal, forensic identification, collision reconstruction and other services could be added with a switch, Amherstburg would retain its current officers unless there is a promotional opportunity or disciplinary situation and the town would retain its police zone structure and would also maintain separate operational data for Amherstburg. The use of non-lethal shotguns would also be allowed to continue in Amherstburg.

In addition to an estimated $567,802 annually – or over $2.8 million over five years – the town’s post-retirement benefit liability of between $2.8 million to $3.9 million would be picked up by Windsor. Also pointed out as JPAC findings were the repurposing of $380,680 from a police reserve for “other municipal purposes” and that if the town doesn’t renew the contract with Windsor, useful assets would be returned to Amherstburg.

Frederick said Windsor is not trying to make money but sharing services would be beneficial to both municipalities.

“We’re not trying to make money,” said Frederick. “We’re trying to share resources for cheaper costs.”
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins, who attended Wednesday night’s meeting at town hall, agreed there were some savings to be had.

“This is not about the City of Windsor making money,” said Dilkins.

Frederick also noted that if Amherstburg accepts the contract, the current collective agreement Amherstburg officers have would dissolve and officers would come under the Windsor police’s agreement and that Amherstburg officers would have to get up-to-speed on Windsor police’s policies.

Miceli said savings to Amherstburg taxpayers would amount to about $61 on an average household. He noted costs would be included in a contract, and pointed out the proposal is not an amalgamation of services but a contracting out of services.

“I have complete faith in the process,” the CAO added.

The third public meeting is this Thursday night (Jan. 25) at St. Peter’s ACHS College School, located at 6101 County Road 20, in Malden Centre. That meeting is scheduled from 6-8 p.m.

The fourth and final public meeting is this Saturday (Jan. 27) at the Libro Centre from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.