By Chris Pickup
Utter frustration laced with anger was palpable Monday evening as councillors voiced their contempt for the OPP and its $7 million per year Haldimand contract.
OPP manpower for the county has been cut yet again, leaving three officers patrolling Haldimand county some shifts, according to Bernie Corbett. He estimates Haldimand is getting 60% of what’s paid for in the contract.
“If there’s a domestic needing two officers, that leaves one officer patrolling the whole of Haldimand county.” And newbies have to be “nannied” when they go out,” he said.
The question of suing the OPP was raised, but the nebulous nature of the contract makes proof just about impossible.
The wording of the contract has changed from concrete numbers such as providing a certain number of officers, to “adequate effective policing” and borderless policing where officers can be pulled from neighbouring jurisdictions when needed. Except those jurisdictions face the same shortages as Haldimand.
“How do you define adequate and effective?” mayor Hewitt asked. “The challenge is in the wording on the contract, it’s not designed to measure. The onus is on us to prove the level of service, not them.”
Letters of complaint of not having proper response times, and inadequate coverage, garner the response from OPP of “yes you are”, says CAO Manley.
“It’s like a hamster on a wheel, ground hog day over and over again since 2006,” said Dan Lawrence. “And now we’re dealing with illegal occupiers.
“Taxpayers are picking up costs for these incidents again. Our roads are being beat up again. There are huge costs to the tax base in development problems.”
However, legally, “Re Caledonia, it’s a whole separate other argument. It’s about the policy of OPP. It’s not a land claim,” Hewitt said. “Every day the OPP is in contravention of the injunction, it can be a measure of what it’s costing the county, developers, investors, people,” he added.
“Day to day policing continues to decline. We’re experiencing hefty costs we should be measuring.”
Senior provincial OPP and the attorney general have been requested to attend an upcoming Police Services Board meeting.
“I hope they show us the decency to show up that day,” Dan Lawrence commented.
Corbett noted the contract is to provide for crime prevention and law enforcement. “I’m concerned about criminal acts in the county with little enforcement.
“4th and 6th Lines are not being patrolled. We contract OPP to do this. Citizens pay taxes for policing and they’re not getting it for these particular areas. I’m deathly concerned.”
He noted there are problems in Dunnville every night that show up on Facebook. “The mayor and I get chastised, but we can’t do anything.”
Hewitt says he gets asked why the county can’t “purchase” more officers.
“The option just doesn’t exist,” he said. “We could afford it, but we’re not allowed.”
Tony Dalimonte felt the county should take the issue to AMO, “and try to light a fire. There’s always strength in getting other municipalities on board.
“The OPP did a real sales job (to coax change from regional police when the region broke up) promising to “bring in helicopters, tanks. etc… and now they can’t even get an officer on the street!”
Council have opted to get some advice from the county’s solicitor as to the feasibility of legal action.
Meanwhile, it should be interesting to see what happens when the latest rolling blockade hits town. Posted online:
“TUESDAY SEPT. 8. Nogojiwanong Rolling blockade to Six Nations. We will be driving down to Landback Lane. Bring your posters, flags, drums, banners. Let’s be as visible as we possibly can! Note: there is an injunction in place. All attendees are travelling at their own risk. Physical distancing and masks are required.
The Haldimand OPP issued a statement today.
“Two court injunctions, extended on August 25, 2020, are currently in effect and prohibit anyone from being on the property located at 1535 McKenzie Road (McKenzie Meadows) in Caledonia and also prohibit anyone from establishing road blockades in Haldimand County.
OPP is advising that individuals who engage in illegal activities such as failing to comply with a court order, may face criminal charges.
Dependent upon an individual’s actions, the following charges may be applicable to anyone:
Disobeying Order of Court (court injunction)
Obstruct Peace Officer: Everyone who resists or wilfully obstructs a peace officer in the execution of his/her duty
Causing Disturbance: Impeding another person
Mischief: Interfere with any person in the lawful use or enjoyment of property
Intimidation: Block or obstruct a highway
These offences are punishable upon conviction by fine and/or imprisonment. Additionally, the Highway Traffic Act authorizes the towing and impounding of vehicles under these circumstances.
The OPP will act to preserve the peace, maintain public safety, investigate unlawful activity and enforce the law where appropriate, in accordance with police duties and responsibilities as set out in legislation and the common law.”
Perhaps the last word belongs to Dan Lawrence. “Do we be like police, throw the towel in, or take action? It’s anarchy, not land claims, it’s about money.
(Judge David) “Marshall must be rolling over in his grave. We have to do what’s right, plain and simple. We owe it to the people.”