Shawn McCurdy

OCPC approves town’s request to switch policing to Windsor

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

It is now official – the Windsor Police Service will be patrolling Amherstburg.

The Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) has approved the town’s request to dissolve the existing Amherstburg Police Service and contract policing services to Windsor. The OCPC released its decision late Thursday.

“The Commission consents to the Application by the Town and consents to the abolition of the Amherstburg Police Service subject to the following conditions,” the decision from the OCPC read. “The Town must deliver to the Commission a signed copy of the contract with the City of Windsor which substantially implements the proposal” and “written confirmation from the (Amherstburg Police Services) Board that an agreement as to severance pay has been made with any member of the Amherstburg Police Service whose employment is terminated as a result of the abolition. Failing such an agreement, the Town must provide written confirmation to the Commission that an agreement has been made with such members that any severance pay dispute will be referred to arbitration. If no such agreements are made within 120 days of (July 26), the Commission will order that all remaining severance pay disputes will be referred to arbitration.”

The decision by the OCPC came exactly one month after public hearings were held at the Libro Centre where the majority of residents who spoke came out against the switch. It also came one day before the nomination period for the 2018 municipal election closed.

According to a press release issued by the Town of Amherstburg, the Windsor Police Service proposal “proposes that it will deliver significant financial savings to the Town while maintaining and enhancing the current levels of service delivery, building on the exceptional commitment of the APS personal to their home community.”

Amherstburg will incur initial transition costs and then expects to achieve annual cost savings of about $567,000.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the proposed transition date of Jan. 1, 2019 still appears to be on track “barring any unforeseen circumstances.”

DiCarlo said the proposal saw Windsor police “copies much of Amherstburg” and its policing model so if it wasn’t approved, it would have made him wonder what the town was doing wrong. However, it was approved and that eliminated any shock factor for him.

“My first reaction is that I’m not surprised,” said DiCarlo. “The issue was adequate and effective policing. I guess it’s a little bit of relief.”

The contract between Amherstburg and Windsor is “good to go,” he added, and he noted the conditions laid out by the OCPC. According to the mayor, there is nothing further that town council has to approve as he said the most recent motion essentially approved the switch pending OCPC approval.

“Council was aware at the time we were getting everything we asked for in the contract,” said DiCarlo.

The issues now are to get started on the transition, he added.

“I think the biggest message at this point is we are still committed to making the transition as seamless as possible and make sure all the parties are taken care of,” said DiCarlo.

Const. Shawn McCurdy, president of the Amherstburg Police Association, was also not taken aback by the decision.

“I’m not surprised,” he told the RTT Friday morning.

McCurdy said knowing the criteria and that the OCPC was looking for adequate and effective policing, he was not shocked by their decision.

“Our next step is going to be making sure every member is dealt with fairly under the law and go from there,” said McCurdy.

That could include looking at the job offers from Windsor, severance pay and any other issue that could arise.

“We’ll take whatever legal action is appropriate under the circumstances,” said McCurdy. “I don’t know what that looks like at this point.”

There has been some “mixed reaction” from the APA membership, he added.

“From our perspective, we’re going to continue to provide adequate and effective policing for the community,” McCurdy stated. “We’ll move forward. We have to.”

The Windsor Police Service issued a press release on the matter late Friday morning.

“The Windsor Police Service is excited about the opportunity to provide policing services for the Town of Amherstburg. The Windsor Police Service is committed to providing the residents of Amherstburg the exceptional service they have come to expect, with numerous enhancements on the horizon,” Windsor Chief Al Frederick stated in the release.

According to Windsor police, “this decision marks the beginning of an important partnership that will benefit the citizens of both Windsor and Amherstburg. Through the dedication of our officers and civilian staff, the Windsor Police Service offers outstanding community support and effective policing within our diverse communities.  Our members, which will include Amherstburg officers and civilian staff, are guided by our vision of making a difference in the communities we serve.”

The Windsor Police Service stated that it would like to “thank the many residents of Amherstburg who shared their opinions on policing and public safety.” Windsor police say the “collective effort brought about a great partnership. Moving forward we will continue to collaborate with the Town and its residents to meet the policing expectations of the community and enhance public safety.”

The Windsor Police Service calls it “an exciting partnership that benefits the entire region.”

Town council voted by a 3-2 vote Feb. 26 to contract policing out to the Windsor Police Service. It will be a 20-year contract with options to review every five years.

(NOTE: This story has been updated from its original version with comments from the Windsor Police Service.)

 

Town council votes to contract out policing services to Windsor

 

By Ron Giofu

 

In a decision that drew boos and catcalls from the audience, Amherstburg town council is switching its’ policing services to Windsor.

Town council voted 3-2 Monday night to enter into a 20-year contract with the Windsor Police Service in a meeting that lasted only about 30 minutes. Voting in favour were Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and councillors Leo Meloche and Rick Fryer.

Councillors Joan Courtney and Jason Lavigne were opposed.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Councillor Diane Pouget did not vote due to being in conflict. Pouget was there in person, declaring conflict due to her son-in-law being a member of the Windsor Police Service while DiPasquale was absent from the meeting.

DiCarlo said that “we’ve hit the second last stage of the process,” noting that the switch from the Amherstburg Police Service to the Windsor Police Service still has to be approved by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC). That could come by 2019, when the contract with Windsor is due to begin.

“Obviously, some things are going to hinge on the approval of the province,” the mayor stated.

The switch is believed to amount to over $567,000 in annual savings but DiCarlo said that could amount to $18-20 million over 20 years, including the long-term post-retirement benefits that Windsor taxpayers will now absorb.

DiCarlo said he heard from many residents that wanted to switch to Windsor and for the town to save money on policing. Cost savings and cost containment were the reasons he said he voted in favour of the switch, noting Windsor committed to cost parity and the savings “could actually go up” in the future.

A report from CAO John Miceli stated: “The Windsor Police will guarantee cost parity will exist between the annual operating budget of the Windsor Police Service and the cost of contract policing the Town of Amherstburg. This guarantee of budgetary parity would commence in year six and be honoured throughout the twenty year commitment for policing services, subject to renewal every five years.”

Many decisions the town makes are now looked at not just for the immediate future, but for 15-20 years down the road, the mayor said.

Acknowledging that he fielded threats from the public that warned they would not vote for him if he voted to switch, DiCarlo said he has never voted on an issue just to win votes regardless of what position he was in.

“I can honestly say I’ve never voted with the intent of getting re-elected,” he said.

While Windsor police will provide a wide array of services for free, DiCarlo said the OPP has changed their billing model and there was concern that the Amherstburg Police Service could start getting billed in the future if OPP services were needed.

“This was a couple of municipalities that saw the benefits for both of us,” he said of Windsor and Amherstburg. “For Amherstburg, we get the same level of policing for less money.”

DiCarlo balked when asked if this could lead to regional policing in Windsor-Essex County, but said he has heard that other municipalities in the area are “watching to see what happens.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo speaks to the media after the Feb. 26 vote that saw council vote 3-2 to contract policing services to Windsor. DiCarlo and councillors Leo Meloche and Rick Fryer were in favor. Voting in opposition were Councillor Jason Lavigne and Councillor Joan Courtney.

Lavigne said the issue has “consumed quite a bit of our lives” from both a council and administration perspective to the public point of view as well.

“It’s been a very difficult decision to have been placed on our shoulders,” he said. “I’ll respect the decision of council. I won’t criticize it.”

Stating that administration “did a good job” and calling the Windsor police proposal “sound,” Lavigne said he was opposed to switching because he didn’t hear from very many people who supported it. He said people want to keep the Amherstburg Police Service and he was going to listen to them.

“I was put here because of the people in the community,” said Lavigne. “People can claim silent majorities all they want to. The majority of people are saying to me that they don’t care about the costs, they want to support their local police.”

Lavigne said the town has spent money on property acquisitions and new hires this term but want to save money in the area of policing. Acknowledging he has been accused of bias because he is on the Amherstburg Police Services Board, he added that Amherstburg police is efficient and the community is safe.

“(The public) has told me they are comfortable with what we have,” said Lavigne.

Meloche said a lot of communities are struggling with police costs and he took the approach that the town’s financial sustainability has to be considered.

“That’s the direction I took,” said Meloche.

Pointing out the town’s status as one of the safest in Canada, Meloche said that isn’t just about the police department.

“We have the safest community in Canada, and no disrespect to the police, it’s because of the people here,” said Meloche, drawing boos and moans from the crowd. “Don’t sell ourselves short. We’re law-abiding, safe people.”

Courtney said she had to be “true to myself” and said she considered the issue carefully.

“I vowed I would listen to the people,” said Courtney.

Most of the comments Courtney said she heard were “we want to keep our local police service” and that was the “overwhelming message” she received.

“Do I think it’s a good contract? Yes, I do,” she said of the Windsor police proposal. “Will it save money? Yes, it will.”

Courtney said she would respect the decision and believed Amherstburg will continue to be a “vibrant” town.

Finances were at the forefront of Fryer’s comments.

“We do have fiduciary responsibilities as a council,” Fryer stated.

Fryer said it was “a great contract for the town,” and pointed out the issue dates back to one of council’s first meetings of the term. The town has reduced its debt, he noted, and believed switching will be the right road for the future.

There were only two delegations at the meeting, the first being from Neil Stewart. Stewart had concerns over HST cost and the fact that the recommendation from administration grew from what was thought to be a five-year proposal to a 20-year proposal.

Miceli said he was tasked with getting costs over a 10, 15 and 20-year period and stated that direction came as a result of the four public meetings with some concerned over savings over just a five-year period.

“I find it hard to believe those figures could come up in the last one, two or three weeks,” said Stewart. “It’s hard to believe that happened.”

“I’m sorry if you don’t believe that but that’s what happened,” said Miceli.

Stewart added his belief those costs should have been made public much sooner.

“I don’t believe we’ve been given the full facts,” he believed.

DiCarlo said the timing of the costings was what it was and there was no attempt to “sweeten” the deal to push it through.

Stewart also questioned the cost per capita, noting Windsor police is $480 per person and Amherstburg is $270. Miceli said Amherstburg’s costs will go down with a switch and that Windsor’s costs are higher because of the additional services they provide.

Pat Simone, noting she was speaking for herself and not representing any committee or board she is on, believed the decision should be deferred until a human rights complaint the Windsor Police Service is currently involved with is resolved.

A female officer is accusing Windsor police of passing her over for promotions based on gender, and Simone said Amherstburg officers would follow Windsor police policies and procedures in the event of a switch.

“I’m not saying it’s a women’s issue, but it’s a human rights issue. It concerns men and women,” said Simone.

After the meeting, residents were upset with council’s decision.

Jen Ozyer said the decision was simply about cost, and she questioned if it would improve the town.

“It’s not about making things better. How is it making it better?” she asked.

Trudy Dempsey said she was “really, really upset” with council’s decision.

“I really don’t think they took everything into consideration, all the meetings that people came to and said ‘no,” she said. “They already decided this long before tonight. That’s exactly how I see it.”

George Kritiotis noted it was one step in the process, noting the matter still has to be approved by the OCPC. He suggested the fight wasn’t over.

“That’s who makes the final decision,” he said.

A petition is at several local businesses and “I think there is a significant amount of people who are against it,” said Kritiotis. He added the fact Windsor and Amherstburg don’t share a border could work in the favour of those opposed to a switch.

“This is not a done deal,” said Kritiotis, adding that opponents may also bring up that it wasn’t a full council that voted.

Const. Shawn McCurdy, president of the Amherstburg Police Association, said the process has been stressful but that they will honour the decision.

“I’m still a little shocked about the decision,” said McCurdy.

McCurdy said the job of the association is to protect its members and they did that the best way they could.

“I can assure you the men and women with the Amherstburg Police Service will continue to do their jobs,” he said. “It’s a council decision.”

The association has no choice but to accept the decision, he conceded, adding that officers took an oath and they will continue to honour that oath.

Moving forward, the association will negotiate any severance payments that may be owed and continue to work on behalf of its members and the residents.

During the four public meetings on the subject, in which the majority of residents stated they favoured keeping Amherstburg police, Miceli noted that 23 per cent of the town’s budget is tied up in police costs.

The Windsor police proposal called for 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, and local officers continuing to respond to all calls for service.

While there was anger and disappointment from many in the public locally last night, town council’s decision was endorsed by Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins.

“Way to go Amherstburg!” Dilkins stated on his Twitter account Monday night. “We look forward to providing enhanced policing services while saving the Town a lot of money. Your foresight is a win-win for residents in both of our municipalities.”

 

Amherstburg police investigate woman crawling out of ditch

 

 

Amherstburg police have closed the case on a report of a woman crawling out of a ditch on Concession 4 North, saying there are no public safety concerns.

Amherstburg police say they got the call around 5:40 a.m. Aug. 4 about a suspicious person in the ditch. Sr. Const. Shawn McCurdy said the area was searched and the woman was not located.

“Through investigation, we believe we have located the person and identified her,” said McCurdy.

The issue is a “personal matter” and the public should not be alarmed, he said, adding there have been no other reports to police about such a matter.

“There are no public safety concerns whatsoever,” he said. “It was a thorough investigation.”

Local resident Judy Dyck reported via Facebook that she was heading for work at 5:45 a.m. Aug. 4, noting it was still dark. She said she was not even one minute from home when she spotted a woman crawling from a ditch into the long grass at the side of the road. There were no vehicles or houses nearby, she added.

“I swerved out of the way because I was scared she would continue to drag her limp body so far that I could’ve hit her. I had .02 seconds to decide to either stop or speed up and call the cops,” Dyck stated on her Facebook post, which had over 2,470 shares as of press time. “She could’ve been dangerous so I decided that realistically there’s nothing I could’ve done anyway and figured the cops would know best how to approach and handle the situation.”
According to Dyck, the woman had one hand on her side as if in pain and the other in the air “simply so I could see her. No blood or anything though. She looked a mess, and scared. Maybe mid-twenties, average build, light brown or dirty blonde hair. She could’ve been running from something or someone.”
Dyck updated her status and said others have made similar sightings. She encouraged others not to stop and to contact police if they spots something similar.

“Don’t stop, the cops can do more than we can,” she said.

Aburg Police Logo Rev-web

Thefts   Amherstburg police report the theft of gas from a Sandwich St. North gas station. A red Dodge Ram allegedly drove off after pumping $33 worth of gas. Police say they vehicle has not been located. It was reported to police Sunday around 12:30 p.m.

  • A vehicle on Main St. was entered and a small amount of change taken. There was no forced entry into the vehicle and police say there are no suspects. Amherstburg police remind the public to lock their vehicles and not leave any valuables. It was reported to police Sunday at 6 p.m.
  • A shed on Victoria St. was entered and hand tools and an outdoor boat motor was reported stolen. There was no forced entry, police state and the matter is under investigation. The theft, reported last Thursday around 2 p.m., has no suspects.

 

Accidents   A two-vehicle accident last Wednesday around 7 a.m. between a Jeep Cherokee and a Ford Focus saw a 47-year-old Amherstburg woman charged with failing to stop at a red light. Police say there were no injuries.

  • A single vehicle crash on Smith Industrial Dr. last Wednesday resulted in a 59-year-old Harrow man charged with making an improper left turn. Police say a pole was struck and there were no injuries.

 

Stats   There were 13 911 hang-up calls, six alarm calls and 46 traffic-related charges.