The official handover from the Perth Police Service (PPS) to the OPP will take place on Monday, April 1- no joke.
“We’re looking at the first of April as the official transition date, pending the OCOPS decision,” said Insp. Gerry Salisbury, detachment commander for the Lanark County OPP, during the Perth police transition meeting on Friday, Nov. 23.
Training for the Perth police officers who are making the jump to the OPP will take place from March 11 to 29. Perth police Chief Pat Capello and Salisbury will put a plan in place to make sure that the town continues to be policed during this training period by OPP officers, as well as Perth officers who are not making the leap.
“I don’t mind doing patrols myself but I don’t know how much I can resolve,” joked Mayor John Fenik. “I would sleep easier,” knowing that there were still cops on the beat, he added.
“I will be in the town myself for that three-week period,” said Salisbury.
Fenik also revealed that the policing contract between the town and the OPP was finished.
“In terms of the contract with the OPP, it is done,” said Fenik, adding that all of the details would be revealed “once all of the human resources aspects of it are dealt with,” as negotiations between the town and uniformed officers, the chief and civilian staff are ironed out. Fenik assured those assembled that the contract was indeed “made-in-Perth.”
On a related matter, the human resources committee reported that they are moving towards a resolution of outstanding issues with staff, which should be in place before the start of December. The town has hired an actuary to go through the numbers on existing contracts, which were due at town hall on Friday.
“The numbers we need to fill in the blanks are just coming in,” said Fenik. “Next week will be a critical week.”
One hiccup has already occurred in getting a Perth officer over to the OPP, but for the best possible reasons. While not identifying the officer, Salisbury revealed that a Perth officer is now pregnant.
“If she is not able to attend training, we would make time when she returns,” said Salisbury. The officer is due to deliver her child in May and “all of her benefits are covered off,” such as her maternity benefits.
“She may not get her firearms training during the initial three weeks training,” said Salisbury. “That will be held afterwards.”
Fenik urged anyone who wants to address the so-called Section 40 hearing at the OCOPS (Ontario Civilian Police Commission) hearing at the Best Western Plus Perth Parkside Inn on Wednesday, Dec. 5, starting at 4 p.m., that they should register ahead of time. He added that that meeting was not a time to revisit old battles that he feels have already been settled.
“OCOPS is not going to be interested in ‘Why I want this police force to stay,’” said Fenik. “It won’t be helpful for citizens to come up and say ‘We love our police force and want it to stay.’”
While acknowledging that he too loves Perth’s existing force, he stressed that that is not the reason for the meeting.
“We don’t want people to fill up the gallery and re-hash the four public debates,” said Fenik. “If people want to speak to the adequacy (of the OPP policing Perth), that is appropriate. There is a specific role that OCOPS has.”
Salisbury agreed with Fenik’s assertion about the chairman making that determination, having seen it himself during similar such meetings in Kirkland Lake, Ont. and Carleton Place.
“The chair will make that quite clear,” said Salisbury. “You, as a council, have done your due diligence.”
A final OCOPS decision will likely take between 30 and 45 days, according to the OPP, but has taken anywhere from a month to three months with other similar situations.
Perth police services board member Eric Devlin, however, pointed out that the public had a right to speak out on the issue.
Deputy Mayor John Gemmell, in discussing the disposal of the PPS’s assets, reiterated that police guns cannot be sold to the public, only to another police force.
“It might be easier just to get rid of them,” said Gemmell.