By James Matthews
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
County council has asked the four lower tier municipalities to oppose a possible consolidation of OPP detachments.
County council discussed rumours during a special meeting on Nov. 9 that OPP detachments in Haliburton Highlands and City of Kawartha Lakes would merge. The rumour also holds that the Haliburton detachment commander will be replaced with a mere manager.
Warden Liz Danielsen said the concerns are based on “consistent rumblings” within the community.
“There were concerns by the four mayors that there would be a serious impact on the services provided in Haliburton County should that take place,” she said.
The mayors and CAOs of Minden Hills, Highlands East, Algonquin Highlands, and Dysart met last week with Chief Superintendent Dwight Peer, central region commander, and other high ranking OPP officers to get clarification on the rumours.
Peer assured the Haliburton delegation that consolidation of the detachment commands wasn’t finalized and that it was only an option being discussed as a means to achieve efficiencies within the police service.
The possible merging of detachment commands would not happen if the local municipalities were opposed to the concept.
As such, county council asked each municipality to discuss the issue before the end of 2022 and to voice their opposition to Peer and OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique.
Councillor Brent Devolin said the municipalities pay the OPP directly for policing. It isn’t a function of the county, per se, and he thanked the upper tier council for starting the rally against possible detachment consolidation.
He said they were caught off guard by the possibility, but the meeting with OPP brass was productive and yielded assurance the wishes of the municipal councils were paramount in the decision process.
“They (OPP) need to have engagement,” Devolin said. “We’re the ones paying the tab here and … they need to dialogue with us.”
He said the police services board that’s in the works will be an effective avenue for communication between the police and communities.
“I hope this is the beginning of a long-term engagement,” Devolin said.
Councillor Carol Moffatt said it was inappropriate that there was no ahead-of-the-game consultations.
“I don’t believe for a second that command consolidation would not have any impact on the services that we are providing to the community, especially in the face of the growth we are seeing,” Moffatt said.
The county is facing many issues directly tied to growth, she said.
“As much as it was suggested nothing would change, I just don’t believe that,” she said.
Replacing the commander at the Haliburton detachment with a manager is “absolutely unacceptable and an insult to our community,” Moffatt said. “A lot of people have worked very hard for the establishment and retention of policing services in Haliburton County. Our growth requires more policing services, more robust services and relationships. Not less.”
Councillor Cecil Ryall said each of the four municipalities need to share consistent information on the issue.
“So that when we as lower tier councils discuss this, we will have a consolidated set of information that is uniform across all four municipalities,” he said, and added that a uniform front will make it so that the local townships can’t be ignored by the OPP decision-makers.