New top cop wants community engagement

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

October 21, 2009

By meeting people in the community face-to-face, Haldimand's new OPP Detachment Commander hopes to rebuild relationships.

The Haldimand County Police Services Board announced last week that Insp. John Periversoff will stay on permanently as the county's OPP detachment commander.

The post has been filled by several officers on an interim basis during the last two years. PSB Chair, Lorne Boyko, said he's looking forward to a long relationship with the new appointee who has been serving in the capacity temporarily over the past six months.

Periversoff, 53, said that he has been "thoroughly engaged" in his job since he came to Haldimand.

Seeing that, his wife encouraged him to accept the full-time role, which is a fair distance from their home in London.

"I don't see challenges, I see opportunities," he stated at a press conference last Thursday.

After much turbulence and public scrutiny since the Douglas Creek Estates Protest began in 2006, Periversoff said he wants to re-engage police officers with citizens and develop better contact with the public.

Some initiatives are already underway including more foot patrols and the development of a community mobilization committee that will provide counsel for police on local issues.

Periversoff  has also made a point of sitting down with some individuals who have been paying prominent roles amidst controversy during the past four years.

"John's approach to talking with some of the main players one-on-one is helping," said Haldimand Mayor, Marie Trainer.

Periversoff spoke directly with Caledonia resident Doug Fleming who started the Haldimand Peacekeepers group, initially dubbed a militia, that is attempting to thwart illegal smoke shacks on Highway 6.

The inspector requested the meeting because of the group's plan to conduct surveillance at the smoke shacks, Fleming told The Regional News.

"He worked very hard to discourage me from doing it and at that time I cooperated," Fleming said.

However, he contends that law enforcement and awareness initiatives that were undertaken earlier this by the Ontario's Ministry of Revenue with the assistance of the OPP have fizzled.

Fleming plans on continuing with surveillance efforts despite Periversoff's suggestion that he could be violating privacy laws.

Fleming said that he likes the new detachment commander, but that Periversoff is a link in a chain of command following orders.

"Nothing has changed with the OPP," he said. "They're trying to keep a lid on things without confronting the real issues. They're appeasing the community, but they aren't being consistent."

Dana Chatwell and her partner Dave Brown have been vocal in the past about their experiences living next to the DCE site and have filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the OPP that is going to trial next month. However, the new inspector is planning to shave off his hair for a community fundraiser with the help of Chatwell at The New You hair salon in Caledonia.

Periversoff said he has the support of the PSB and officers at the detachment, but also hopes to gain backing from a candid and forthright community in the future.

"I want to engage the community," he said.

"You give up the notion of passive acquiescence when you're a police officer."

Periversoff, a father of four, comes with extensive policing experience after 28 years with the provincial force. He began his career in Burlington as a constable and became a sergeant in Barrie before serving as police advisor in downtown Toronto.

His resume includes several appointments and secondments as a training instructor, deputy chief of firearms officer and community policing advisor. He has also three years of military experience.

Trainer believes that Periversoff has already had a positive effect on the Haldimand community.

"The public's view of the OPP wasn't very good, but that is changing," she said.