PERTH - The Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) has ruled in favour of the disbanding of the Perth Police Service (PPS).
The 34-page ruling was handed down in Toronto on Thursday, Jan. 17.
“The panel has concluded that the OPP Integrated Detachment proposal which the council has voted to accept will enable the town to provide adequate and effective police services in accordance with the needs of the town…The commission consents to the town’s request,” wrote chairman David Gavsie and board member Roy Conacher in their final decision. “The commission consents to the termination of all current members – uniform and civilian – of the service.”
The news did not come as news to PPS Chief Pat Capello.
“Clearly, I wasn’t surprised by their decision,” said Capello. “They did their part and their role is as an adjudicative, decision-making role.”
The news was also not a surprise, but was certainly welcomed, by Mayor John Fenik.
“I’m feeling positive that we will move forward with this,” said Fenik. “This was the last piece of the puzzle. We’re all set to go.”
Bearing in mind the long history of the Perth police, and the hours of service and dedication put in by its officer, Fenik said that “you want to make absolutely sure you’re doing the right thing. It’s a very sobering moment.”
The OCPC’s role was to determine if the new OPP force in town would provide “adequate and effective,” policing, which they determined they would.
“I am confident that the OPP will meet those thresholds,” said Capello of his brother officers. “The law is very clear, under the Police Services Act.”
He admitted that this decision helped put other legal pieces of the puzzle in motion.
“All the different parts are getting to move forward,” he said.
Already, the by-law log-jam at town council awaiting this provincial decision appears to have broken loose a flurry of laws to be passed which appear likely to be passed at the Tuesday, Jan. 22 town council meeting.
One of those by-laws is the “Reporting Protocol Memorandum of Understanding,” and the OPP’s first annual budget for the Town of Perth for 2013, as well as the overall police contract.
The hand-over date from the PPS to the OPP has been pushed back from Monday, April 1 to Friday, April 5. The next day, Saturday, April 6, a swearing-in ceremony will take place at Algonquin College’s Perth campus, during which the contract will also be officially signed.
Fenik stated that the official hand-over day was determined because of an “administrative issue,” namely, pay.
“Everyone gets another pay period in,” under the old Perth banner, explained Fenik.
One of the remaining sticking points in the decision was that a final termination agreement has not yet been reached between Capello and the Town of Perth.
“The above consent is subject to the condition that the board and the chief shall have a maximum of 60 days from the date of this decision to agree on a severance agreement for the chief,” the report stated. “If no agreement is reached, the commissioners order that the arrangement shall forthwith proceed to arbitration.”
Capello told The Perth Courier EMC that, as of the afternoon of Monday, Jan. 21, “there have been ongoing discussions. I am confident that we should be able clear this matter up so that it is not the fly in the ointment, stalling the process, and we can all move forward.”
The memorandum of understanding states that Lanark County OPP detachment commander Insp. Gerry Salisbury will meet with town council and the Perth police services board (PSB) several times a year, and provide them with quarterly updates.
In his letter to council, Salisbury promised that, during his presentations to council, Mayor John Fenik was free to pick from any three crime categories (ie. Assaults, trespasses, break-and-enters) and he would provide the average response times.
Salisbury also requested that the PSB provide him with a list of by-laws for his officers to enforce, save for the town’s animal control and building code legislation.
OPP BUDGET 2013
The proposed OPP budget for the Town of Perth intends to see $2,316,964 spent on salaries and benefits, of which uniformed officer salaries would make up $1,134,120. The salaries, both uniform and civilian, are based on the 2011-14 collective agreement. Excluding salaries, the total estimated gross policing cost would be $2,434,897. Initial start-up costs are estimated at $238,993, which includes $15,780 for the purchase of 15 firearms at a cost of $1,052 each. About 15 new OPP uniforms will cost $52,935 at a cost of $3,529 each. Other miscellaneous costs run the gamut from $3,000 for the purchase of 15 new gun lockers, at $200 each, to $40,000 in renovation costs to the existing OPP detachment on Highway 7.
The commission’s report singled out two presenters at the Dec. 5, 2012 public meeting on the disbandment, former mayor and police services board chair Lana March, and local lawyer Robert Wicklum.
“Two submissions made at the public meeting require the panel to make comments about them,” the two men wrote, before starting their response to March.
“Several times Ms. Lana March indicated that the commission should ‘ensure’ or in effect ‘guarantee’ that something would or would not happen if the OPP Integrated Detachment Model proposal would be approved,” the two men wrote. “The commission does not ‘ensure’ or ‘guarantee’ anything in making its decision…Nor does the commission have the staff or the budget to independently verify the figures and calculations used in the proposal, as Ms. March also suggested we do regarding the application.”
As for Wicklum, he raised the possibility of a conflict of interest, for which they adopted a similar tone of reply.
“It is not the responsibility of the commission…to deal with those,” they wrote. “Rather, there are other means and forums in which such allegations can be pursued.”