Councillors need a reality check

by Gary McHale - The Regional

December 16, 2009

When Haldimand Council signed a five year contract with the OPP last week it also ensured that policing would not be an election issue next year. Ten months from today these councillors are going to be begging you for your votes and the last thing they want is for people to be making demands of them regarding the failed policing service since 2006.

The next elected councillors will have no option but to continue the OPP contract until 2014.

On the brighter side maybe the current Council wrote into the contract minimum levels of service they expect over the next five years. Maybe there is a paragraph in the contract that states OPP officers cannot stand by and watch crimes being committed. Maybe there is a commitment by the OPP to end Race Based Policing. Maybe the councillors  demanded a clause to ensure that OPP couldn't drive away from native protesters who point guns at the Fire Department.

I can see it now, Councillor Boyko, as member of the Police Service Board, stood up in the council meeting last week and demanded OPP provide proper protection for the citizens of Haldimand County.

Maybe Councillor Grice stood up and demanded the OPP start policing 6th Line.

I guess I am a dreamer because none of this happened - no paragraphs ensuring proper policing service, nothing ending Race Based Policing, nothing restoring policing on 6th Line however, there is an agreement to increase costs by $800,000 for less service.

In the past 4 weeks the National Post has done 25 stories on the Brown/Chatwell lawsuit and the Globe and Mail has done 14 stories on the issue. Did any council member speak up about the evidence from this lawsuit which now shows the OPP knew their duty under the previous Haldimand Police Contract but wilfully refused to provide the service? Did any council member ask for a refund based on the lack of service since 2006?

After all the stories in the media over the past 4 weeks we have Councillor Boyko stating last week, "the county has been accustomed to an enhanced level of OPP service since 2006 due to issues involving First Nations... John Q. Public is concerned about the bodies."

Reality check for you Coun. Boyko, John Q. Public doesn't care whether there are 4 officers or 10 officers standing around while crimes are being committed. Has Boyko even been listening to the public?

Maybe Coun. Boyko could ask Brown/Chatwell if they are happy with the 'enhanced level of OPP service'. I wonder if Sam Gaultieri wanted more OPP officers standing outside his home doing nothing to help while he was beaten.

Sorry Coun. Boyko, numbers mean nothing if the officers you have refuse to do their job. Does it really matter whether it was 10 or 15 OPP officers who stood by and watched the CHCH camera crew be attacked?

No wonder the OPP have not been forced to do their job when you have Coun. Boyko, who sits on the Police Service Board, thinking Haldimand is getting 'enhanced service.' I think most people would rather have regular service where police officers arrest those who break the law like they do in other areas of the Province.

It is hard to imagine any municipal council anywhere in Canada that has been so out of touch with the public and failed to provide the voters with services promised as Haldimand Council has done.

One of many stories not reported on from the Brown/Chatwell lawsuit is the testimony of the number of times they called Haldimand Council for help and received none. There are hundreds of examples of by-laws being broken by native protesters while Haldimand Council did nothing. Nothing to protect Brown and Chatwell. Nothing to protect the families on Thistlemoor, Braemar or the families on 6th Line.

We often talk about the hundreds of 911 calls people made since 2006 without getting any help from the OPP. We forget the hundreds of appeals to Haldimand Councillors that went unanswered.

Instead Councillors moved to silence Mayor Trainer in 2006, passed a motion to get all her incoming and outgoing emails in 2007 and in 2009 they passed a motion to ensure individual councillors couldn't speak out on the issues they were elected to speak out on.

There is a saying that you get the leaders you deserve. In 2010 the public will have an option to vote back in these leaders or vote in new ones.

The following is a letter I received as I was writing this editorial:

I am a retired OPP officer with 30+ years of experience who served in two small municipal forces for 15 years before being amalgamated into the OPP about 18 years ago.
Although I was never posted in Caledonia during its crisis, I have many friends and colleagues who were. It would be a bit unfair for me to comment on those issues in general, however, I can comment first hand regarding costing of policing services, and secondly the impact it has on the municipality involved and the officers themselves. I was vice-president of the local municipality police association prior to its being disbanded when it was amalgamated into the OPP.
The OPP Contract Policing section uses a tactic to acquire small town forces, then seems to abandon these amalgamated members once the so-called "take-over" is completed. The OPP Contract Policing section undercuts costing proposals by thousands of dollars in efforts to secure these contracts knowing full well that Chiefs of Police of small departments cannot compete with their numbers.
OPP Contract Policing section will speak to town council, trying to wow them with sales tactics like: "The OPP have the TRU team, Helicopters, Underwater search and recovery, etc." with all these dreamy specialized services, that small town departments don't have.
Average council members eat this sales pitch up.
What the OPP Contract Policing section doesn't emphasize is that the OPP is bound by the Police Services Act to supply these specialized services to small town police departments if needed on a cost-by-cost basis.
Some members of town councils are so determined to disband small town departments, that this is overlooked because of their individual opinions of the Chief of Police or his officers and look to the OPP in efforts to simply do-away with them.
The OPP banks on the thinking that once the small town department is done away with, if they don't like the OPP or its rising costs, then go ahead and start up your own force again. They well know the start up costs are too expensive for most towns, so they are stuck with the OPP. The OPP then raise the contract costs, provide fewer and fewer services that were promised like foot patrols, dedicated town officers, etc.
After a few years of OPP policing, citizens start to complain they never see an officer.

The Crown spent a fair bit of time going through Chatwell's financial records. Detailed information was entered into evidence regarding her business records, MasterCard statements and tax returns going back to 2002. Chatwell had cashed in tens of thousands of dollars worth of RRSPs and Educational funds to help cover the bills in 2006 and 2007. Chatwell received two inherences over the last few years and a $25,000 loan from one of the builders in Caledonia. There was no time limit set on when payments had to start but this loan would be repaid when funds were available.

The Crown abruptly ended their cross examination after only a few hours and court has been adjourned until the first week in the new year.