Police transition delayed again as Board refuses to release staff files to OPP

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by Suzanne Gammon
Tribune

After a favourable ruling by three judges on Nov. 14, the municipality of West Nipissing was on course to transition to the Ontario Provincial Police in February 2019, but that process has once again been delayed as the WN Police Services Board puts up more roadblocks.

In a letter dated December 3, OPP Superintendant Commander Marc Bedard informs WN Mayor Joanne Savage that the transition will be put off until June 2019, because the WN Police is refusing to cooperate and share information until December 14. That date is when the stay imposed by the court in July will be lifted, allowing the town to move forward with its transition. The Nov. 14 ruling kept the stay in place for 30 days, and the town and Board have been at odds over its interpretation, with the latter saying nothing can be done on the policing file until then, and the town insisting it can still take steps toward implementation.

“West Nipissing Police Chief Ray St. Pierre has advised us that he was directed by the West Nipissing Police Services Board to pause any actions/activities pending the expiration of the stay (…), scheduled for December 14, 2018, including collaborating with the OPP and responding to requests for information necessary to proceed with the hiring process,” reads Bedard’s letter. “The time constraints created by this delay have resulted in the need to reschedule the amalgamation date for your municipality from February 2019 to June 2019.”

The issue is that there are only three intakes per year for training amalgamated forces, in February, June and October, explains OPP Inspector Bert McDonald. This is why the original transition date was set for October 2018, then was delayed to February and finally June 2019. McDonald says the process would have had to begin immediately after the Nov. 14 ruling, so they could review files, do proper background checks and conduct interviews in time for the 3-week training at the OPP academy in Orillia in February. Asked why they could not simply delay by one month, he says the schedule is set for a full year and there is “no flexibility this year.”

In July 2018, when the WN Police Board was granted a stay until their application for Judicial Review could be heard, the OPP had already begun the hiring process, having received applications from local officers. Asked why the OPP could not simply schedule interviews with the applicants on their own, like any other employer, McDonald says there is a process to follow which involves reviewing employee files and doing background checks before interviewing. However, the WNPS is not sharing those files yet, and “if we get them a week before Christmas, it just doesn’t leave enough time.”

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