Canniff would welcome chance to consider policing Leamington

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With Leamington’s contract with the OPP now set to expire in June 2021, Chatham-Kent Police Service is one possible organization which could step in to provide the service for its neighbour to the southwest.

Leamington council made the decision June 9. The cost of police for the municipality rose to almost $5.5 million this year from $5.1 million in 2019, but Mayor Hilda MacDonald said the issue was about the level of service they were receiving rather than the cost.

She said she expects that Chatham-Kent’s police service will be one of the options Leamington will consider, but there is still a consultant’s report and request for proposal outlining what the town is looking for to be released.

MacDonald and Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff have been discussing opportunities for shared services since they were elected in 2018 and both said policing was one of the topics that has come up.

“That was probably one of the first things I said for him to consider on his radar, that we would maybe be looking at changing our police service and that Chatham-Kent should seriously consider,” MacDonald said.


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Canniff, who is also on the Chatham-Kent police services board, said he is interested in opportunities that would benefit taxpayers of both municipalities.

“If we work together, there are always those opportunities for savings (and) to provide better service. This opportunity would fall right in with that,” he said.

“If they would like us to consider it, we certainly would. They’re our neighbours and they are a hop, skip and jump away from Wheatley.”

He said he will be keeping an eye out for the RFP.

“I’m sure that the mayor of Leamington and I would be speaking about that in advance,” he said.

In a statement, Chatham-Kent Police Chief Gary Conn said providing services to Leamington is possible, but no formal requests have come in yet.

“These are all viable questions which would have to be taken into consideration during a full and robust analysis into the feasibility and possibility of CKPS providing our services to the Municipality of Leamington,” he said.

“Having said that, there are consultants who provide expertise into this kind of an analysis and their services would certainly be something the Chatham-Kent Police Services Board might consider.”

Conn said everything is “speculative” at this point and the final decision would rest with the police services board and council.

When the Town of Amherstburg disbanded its in-house police service, Windsor Police Service stepped in to provide services at the beginning of 2019. MacDonald has said Windsor’s department is another possibility for the contract.


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In Amherstburg’s case, its officers were able to migrate to the WPS. MacDonald said she hopes the local OPP officers would be able to continue working in Leamington after a contract with another organization is settled.

“I think that would only be smart for whoever gets the contract, that they would look at officers that know the community and try to engage them and offer positions,” she said. “We’ll have to see how that plays out.”

OPP have been in charge of policing in Leamington since December 2010. MacDonald said the municipality was promised six officers a shift at that time, but starting around 2014, the OPP no longer told them what the compliment was.

She said Leamington council was willing to approve more funds so they could have eight officers on duty per shift, but OPP was “not interested in changing the model.”

Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald. File photo

In one case, MacDonald said both fire and police were called to a vehicular accident and the deputy fire chief had to control traffic because there was only one officer on scene.

Another concern, she said, was fire and emergency medical officers are accountable for response times, but the OPP doesn’t provide the municipality its own response times.

These discussions are happening at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement has called attention to system racism in policing. Some citizens are questioning how much of a municipal budget should be dedicated to police officers instead of other roles in social work, mental health and addictions.


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When asked how these ideas will affect the RFP, MacDonald said she understands and empathizes with Black Lives Matter, but pricing was the main reason the OPP was brought in “and look where we are.”

She also said crime has been increasing and “our low numbers of officers on the job are not ending that.”

“I’m afraid if we defund, that we will be in a worse situation in three to five years,” she said. “I totally understand the issues. Crime has changed because of addictions and mental health. We need to shore up those areas with more money, with more people, with more professionals in place, but to replace the police … I really don’t think that is the answer.”

The Leamington mayor also said more training for officers is needed “when it comes to racism and profiling.”

– With files from Dalson Chen, Windsor Star