Essex mayor questions frequency of county’s new police oversight board

Essex mayor questions frequency of county’s new police oversight board

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Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy is concerned that the county’s new OPP oversight board will not be able to address community safety concerns promptly enough due to its sparse meeting schedule.

The Essex County OPP Detachment Board North, which dissolved the former police service boards of Essex, Tecumseh and Lakeshore and replaced them with a merged oversight committee, will meet bi-monthly, six times per year.

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Bondy, however, said that is not enough to address the policing needs of what is now a much larger jurisdiction.

“How is meeting less and covering more municipalities positive?” asked Bondy, noting that Essex’s former police services board previously met monthly.

“My residents want me to have a strong relationship with the OPP and not meeting as frequently does not allow that. Now I can only ask them questions every other month.

“People need more police accountability, more public trust, and this to me is an erosion of public trust.”

The Ministry of the Solicitor General said in an emailed statement to the Windsor Star that “OPP detachment boards are required to meet a minimum of four times per year, but may meet more often at the discretion of the Board.”

Although the meeting schedule for the Essex County OPP Oversight Board North exceeds the number recommended by the Solicitor General, Bondy said she would prefer to convene at least eight times annually, especially during the initial stages of the newly established board.

“We’re just getting this new board up and started,” she said.

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“I have so many questions and policing is a top file on my desk. It just feels like what’s the point even having a police service board if we just meet every two months and rubber-stamp things?”

The new OPP detachment board was created under the Community Safety and Policing Act, which introduced new protocols for law enforcement agencies across Ontario.

The province passed the legislation in 2019, but implementation began on April 1 this year.

The Essex County OPP Oversight Board North, which is its temporary title until a new name is selected, held its first meeting on April 24.

Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara told the Star that he was “very pleased with the conversation” at the first meeting.

McNamara said the detachment board’s meeting frequency is adequate, given that Tecumseh’s former police services board previously met four times per year.

Despite the gaps between meetings, he said representatives need not wait to voice concerns about policing and safety in their communities.

“If it’s a really important issue, it’s just a matter of grabbing a phone and having a conversation with the OPP at any given time,” McNamara said.

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Lakeshore Mayor Tracey Bailey told the Star she does “not currently have concerns about the frequency of the new board’s meetings.

“We have exceeded the statutory minimum of four meetings per year, and have the option of holding additional meetings at the call of the chair, if necessary.”

The Municipality of Lakeshore’s former police services board also convened six times annually.

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Each municipality is represented on the new police board by a council member and community representative.

The board members include Lakeshore’s Bailey and community representative Julie Johnston, Essex’s Bondy and community representative Dave Kigar, and Tecumseh’s McNamara and community representative Paul Sweet. 

Those board member will be joined by two provincial appointees who have yet to be named.

“We’re feeling our way,” said McNamara.

“I think it’s a good group and we’re going to do the best we can to deliver safety to our three communities.”

The Essex County Detachment Board — North’s next meeting is June 10. 

Members meet at Tecumseh Town Hall on the second Monday of every other month at 10 a.m. for the remainder of the year.

mmazak@postmedia.com

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