Ontario Civilian Police Commission

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.”

 

Town awaiting word from OCPC, contract still to be finalized

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

After daylong meetings Tuesday, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) is expected to hand down word in the coming weeks on the town’s policing future.

While those meetings were going on as this issue of the River Town Times was going to press, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said Monday night said the result will be one of two things – either the switch to the Windsor Police Service is approved or the process ends with a rejection.

“If it’s not approved, we’re done,” DiCarlo said at the end of Monday night’s council meeting, which included a nearly two-hour in-camera session after the public portion ended. “If (the OCPC) does approve it, council has to approve the contract.”

The focus of the OCPC is to decide whether the Windsor Police Service can give adequate and effective policing, he noted.

“For the residents that still aren’t happy with the decision, I don’t want to say that we’re going to dismiss that in any way but, from the OCPC themselves and from the (Police Services) Act, really the only thing at this stage is adequate and effective policing,” said DiCarlo, “not whether you’re happy with council’s decision in that respect.”

The contract negotiations are moving along, he suggested, though the mayor was guarded at what he said due to the in-camera discussions. He said that Windsor has been accommodating with the town’s issues as it relates to service levels and other issues.

“At this stage, I think everything that we needed is there,” said the mayor.

The five town council members that voted “have gotten quite a bit of feedback,” said DiCarlo. Town council voted to proceed with a 20-year contract with the Windsor Police Service at a special meeting Feb. 26. Voting in favour were DiCarlo and councillors Rick Fryer and Leo Meloche while councillors Jason Lavigne and Joan Courtney were opposed. Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Councillor Diane Pouget both declared a conflict of interest due to having relatives on the Windsor Police Service.

DiCarlo added that the OCPC has “committed to give us a decision as quickly as they can.” Coverage of yesterday’s meetings will be included in the July 4 issue of the RTT and on the website found at www.rivertowntimes.com.

If the OCPC approves the town’s request to contracting policing to the Windsor Police Service, it is expected to take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

Town’s policing decision officially advances to provincial level

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has made its decision as it pertains to the policing issue and now it’s in the province’s hands.

Silvia Cheng, communications co-ordinator with Safety, Licensing Appeals and Standards Tribunal (SLASTO), confirmed that the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) received an application from the Town of Amherstburg March 12.

“The OCPC is currently reviewing the application and will decide on next steps shortly,” said Cheng.

Town council voted 3-2 at a special meeting Feb. 26 to award a 20-year contract to the Windsor Police Service and switch from the existing Amherstburg Police Service. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and councillors Leo Meloche and Rick Fryer voted in favour with councillors Jason Lavigne and Joan Courtney being opposed. Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Councillor Diane Pouget did not participate in the vote as they declared conflicts of interest as both have family members on the Windsor Police Service.

“Consent from the OCPC is required where a municipal police services board seeks to terminate the employment of police officers for the purposes of abolishing or reducing the size of an existing municipal police force,” explained Cheng. “The OCPC must also approve any application where a municipality chooses to contract with a non-contiguous municipality, under section 5(1)6 of the Police Services Act (PSA).”

In an e-mail to the River Town Times, Cheng added that the application process is initiated once an application or submission is received from a municipality.

“The OCPC reviews the information in the application in a timely manner to ensure that it meets the criteria in section 40 of the PSA,” said Cheng. “If there are any concerns with the application, the OCPC will make further enquiries of the municipality. The OCPC has the responsibility to ensure that the abolition of an existing police force does not otherwise contravene the PSA.

Cheng indicated there could be further opportunities for the general public to provide input into the process.

“Depending on the nature of the application the OCPC may decide to hold a public hearing. Until that decision is made, all public submissions should be forwarded to the municipality to be made available by it to the OCPC. However, if the OCPC receives submissions directly it will consider those as part of its review,” said Cheng.

Should the OCPC grant its approval, a switch to the Windsor Police Service is expected to occur in 2019.

The OCPC is an independent, quasi-judicial agency and under the Safety, Licensing Appeals and Standards Tribunals Ontario cluster.