The WN Police Services Board discusses its objections to the police costing process and the proposed use of the Zone building as a temporary police station.

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Police Board objects to OPP process and temporary site, appeals to ministries

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The other issue raised was over the site chosen by the town and the OPP as a temporary facility while the permanent station is being built. In an update provided the week prior, municipal CAO Jay Barbeau announced that they would be doing renovations to the Zone building in Goulard Park (along John Street) to make it suitable as a temporary location, while the new command centre was being built off of Hwy 17.

“There were concerns raised about the temporary facility that they are going to ask our officers to work in,” Bertrand stated. He said he called the ministry representative to find out whether “something like this was acceptable,” adding that if the current Police Services Board asked the officers to work out of such a facility, there could be legal issues. “Seeing as they are going to be in there more than a week or two, more like a year and a half… our association would have every right to grieve it, go to the Ministry of Labour and appeal it.” Having been told by the ministry that the OPP has final say over what it accepts as a facility, he wanted to turn to the Ministry of Labour to examine the site, saying the PSB still has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its officers. “From that point of view, I think it would be appropriate that the Board looks into the appropriateness of the facility just for the safety of our own officers.”

Bertrand said he asked Barbeau for a floor plan for the Zone but was not provided any, so he took it upon himself to examine the site and drew his own, determining that it was likely unacceptable. He asked WN Police Chief Chuck Seguin to comment.

Seguin said the building would be renovated but he was not privy to the plans. “I can’t comment on cell space, if there is not cell space, where is it going to be? Are prisoners going to be transported to North Bay or Sudbury? Is breath testing going to be done in North Bay, Sudbury?” He ran down a list of facilities that the current WNPS location has. “I have questions, obviously, where’s the service delivery going to come from… to process prisoners, to process impaired drivers …Do they have a decontamination shower? …We’ve gone to great lengths here to make sure that’s available to the staff. At what point do we stop advocating for our officers? At some point in time this is no longer our responsibility, but at this point in time I find it difficult not to look at the needs and how service delivery is going to occur and the needs of staff. I don’t have those answers,” he deplored.

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The WN Police Services Board (PSB) is refusing to go down quietly as the municipality transitions to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), saying it will not sign a letter acquiescing to the disbandment of the WN Police Service but will rather raise concerns with the province over what they feel was a process that excluded them as well as the choice to house the police temporarily in the old Zone building, a location they find unsuitable.

On April 17, Board chair Barry Bertrand issued an invitation to media for the PSB’s April 19 meeting, saying they would be commenting on the OPP costing process. The press release was discussed that evening at the April 17th municipal council meeting, with Coun. Guilles Tessier saying the PSB was overstepping its mandate.

The PSB went ahead on April 19, with Bertrand explaining that the board was responding to a letter from Sgt. Peter Marshall, of the Municipal Policing Bureau of OPP, outlining the information it required from the PSB in a letter of understanding which would form part of the formal application to disband the WN Police Service and transition to the OPP. In the letter, which is to be submitted to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC), responsible for approving the disbandment, the PSB was asked to indicate that they had been involved in the OPP costing process from the start, and to describe the role they played in that process. Bertrand said as chair, he did not feel comfortable answering those two items on the list. “I have not been involved (…) in any of the process and neither has the board,” he stated, adding that they attended the public meetings but were not part of any working group. “I have serious concerns about (…) signing off on anything we haven’t participated in,” said Bertrand, adding that it was the town who “chose not to involve us.”

New PSB member Paul Finley pointed out that they could provide “a qualified response”, answering the items they could while leaving those two bullets blank or using them to underscore a lack of consultation. “We have done some of those things [on the list]” like collective bargaining, he said. “We can indicate those things that have happened (…) and those that have not happened.”

However, Bertrand felt they should go above the OCPC and directly to the Minister to air their grievance. “We’re writing to the wrong people,” he said, saying their concern about the process needs to be heard higher up. “Who do we make our case to? (…) We have to say it’s not ok. This can’t be just shoved down our throats.”

PSB member Céleste Auger Proulx agreed, and wondered “who missed the boat” in not involving the board early on. “Council,” responded Bertrand. The board resolved to write to the minister “verbalizing our concerns over the OPP process.”

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