Public given chance to weigh in on Malahide, Ont. policing
By Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
By Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express
A public consultation was held to discuss whether Malahide should continue using Elgin Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) service, or switch to Aylmer Police. The meeting took place at Malahide Community Place in Springfield on Wednesday, Sept. 30 and was broadcast live online.
Malahide currently has a policing services contract with Elgin OPP detachment — and has for several decades.
“Over the years, there have been concerns expressed by council members and the public in both Aylmer and Malahide regarding the cost of policing,” said Malahide Mayor Dave Mennill, who also serves as Elgin County Warden.
The township pays more than $1-million for the Elgin OPP services every year, with a projected 2 per cent annual increase.
An ad hoc group consisting of council members and municipal staff found switching to Aylmer Police would save Malahide nearly $600,000 over ten years. The estimated 10-year cost with Aylmer Police Service would be $10.7-million, compared to Elgin OPP at $11.3-million. Aylmer Police propose a 3 per cent annual increase.
For the first year, switching to Aylmer Police would cost about $50,000 more than Elgin OPP, but the price drops after that.
The public consultation featured five presentations: an introduction by Malahide Mayor Dave Mennill; a review of a consultant’s report of the feasibility by Malahide Chief Administrative Officer Michelle Casavecchia-Somers; a Police Services Act overview by Ministry of Solicitor General Police Services Advisor David Tilley; and thoughts regarding the proposal by both Aylmer Police Chief Zvonko Horvat and Elgin OPP Detachment Commander Mike Butler.
Following the presentations, there was a public input session where residents could speak and direct questions to Chief Horvat, Commander Butler and Malahide councillors.
A one-question survey was distributed to attendees, asking the question: “Are you in favour of the Malahide Township Council proceeding to negotiate a formal contract for policing services with the Aylmer Police Service?”
The survey offers the options of yes, no, and undecided, then asks for an explanation for the answer. The survey is also available on the Malahide township website.
“We want to hear from as many residents as possible,” said Mayor Mennill.
The results will be used by Malahide council in their decision to negotiate a policing services contract with the Aylmer Police Service or continue with the Elgin OPP.
In October 2019, Aylmer submitted a proposal, and recently an updated costing to the township for Aylmer Police Service to deliver policing services to Malahide.
This proposal was reviewed by an external consultant, Performance Concepts Consulting, and a report was submitted to Malahide council June 2020.
Malahide Chief Administrative Officer Michelle Casavecchia-Somers presented an overview of the consultant’s report.
The report noted that the Aylmer Police Service proposal ensures at least one police officer is assigned to Malahide at all times. There will still be occasions when the officer may be required to back up other officers in another area.
Elgin OPP assigns two officers to the east patrol zone (Malahide and Bayham), and have a borderless policing model.
“The consultants have pointed out that there is no guarantee that OPP officers would be located within Malahide township at any given time,” said Casavecchia-Somers.
The report compared the number of calls for service in both Aylmer and Malahide in 2018, including violent crime, property crime, drugs, motor vehicle collisions, mental health and domestic disturbances. Aylmer and Malahide have relatively similar numbers for each type of call, suggesting a similar policing environment. A criminal investigation should not place undue stress on the Aylmer Police Service, in the consultant’s opinion.
The report concluded that Aylmer Police Service is capable, and well-situated geographically, to provide policing to Malahide that meets or exceeds adequacy standards.
Cmdr. Mike Butler gave the real-life example of a collision on Dec. 8, 2018, to explain available OPP resources.
Elgin OPP responded to a motor vehicle collision on John Wise Line in Jaffa. The first officer arrived at about 2:28 a.m. and found a 25-year-old male dead in the passenger seat. The driver was located outside the vehicle and initially denied being the driver of that vehicle. The responding officer arrested the driver for impaired operation of a motor vehicle causing death.
During the course of response and investigation, about 22 officers were involved in various roles (assistance, traffic control, arrest, liaison, technical and forensic investigators).
“All of these resources are used to do this investigation,” said Butler. “It’s about capacity.”
In his opinion, this capacity did not exist with Aylmer Police. Butler said this was not a comment on the officers, but it would take Aylmer Police some time to do all of the tasks mentioned, while Elgin OPP already had that capacity.
Currently, Elgin OPP employs about 62 officers, while Aylmer Police has about 15.
Even if the Elgin OPP did not police Malahide, they would attend and assist to these types of calls in a mutual aid fashion. However, they may not submit some of the mentioned resources to assist with the investigation.
“Based on the scope of what you’re asking for, we don’t have two similar police services, and one is less,” said Butler. “I would suggest you have a lesser contract with Aylmer, and they don’t provide the same capacity or scope.”
Aylmer Police Chief Zvonko Horvat said that Aylmer police did have the capacity to respond to those types of calls.
“We may not deploy 32 officers to a particular incident that occurred in Malahide or Aylmer,” responded Horvat. Aylmer Police Service has a collision reconstructionist and staff well-trained in major case management and criminal investigations.
The public then had time to speak and ask questions to Malahide council, as well as Horvat and Butler.
Seven asked questions, some multiple times.
Malahide Deputy Mayor Dominique Giguere asked Chief Horvat, that if Aylmer were to police Malahide, “What’s in it for Aylmer?”
Horvat said joint services would look at efficiencies in both Aylmer and Malahide, cost savings for Aylmer, and to provide excellent services in both areas.
Kevin Morrell asked Mayor Mennill how much input Malahide council was permitted to give the OPP. Mennill said Malahide was represented on the Elgin County Police Services Board by Dan Froese. The township also received an annual report from the OPP.
Morrell asked if Malahide was allowed to vote on anything as it related to Elgin OPP practices. Mennill said the Elgin Police Services Board acts as an advisory board.
Butler said he was responsible for answering to the Elgin Police Services Board or the County of Elgin. Elgin OPP also has with an action plan for their detachment, which is partly done through consultation.
“It’s not a matter of? the OPP is this big machine,” said Butler. “We have regular conversations with the CAO and other stakeholders in the community as far as issues and how we would respond. Policy, specifically, certainly that’s done at a higher level for the OPP, but we’re responsible for the township based on policing needs and trends.”
Rosemary Kennedy stated she is a part of Malahide Community Policing. She asked if that group would continue, and if an officer would attend the meetings, should Aylmer Police begin to provide services to Malahide.
Horvat said in his previous job as Detachment Commander at OPP, there were about five community policing groups in his jurisdiction.
“I’m very much in favour of having citizens engaged in the community and assisting with crime prevention initiatives,” he said. “Certainly that is something we would offer to Malahide. If I wasn’t available, one of the other officers would be available for the meetings.”
The hour-long question-and-answer period is available on the Township of Malahide YouTube page.