Will Orangeville follow suit?

July 19, 2019   ·   0 Comments


SHELBURNE’S LONG SAGA concerning the future of policing in the fast-growing town  came to an emphatic close Wednesday night of last week when an expected debate instead produced unanimity. 

It was a result that shocked some, but delighted many – 7-0 vote in favour of keeping the 140-year-old Shelburne Police Service. It was clear to see just how much this decision meant to some in the community, with booming cheers echoing around Council Chambers in the immediate aftermath of the vote. Shelburne Police Chief Kent Moore was, seemingly, was as happy as anyone else in the room, beaming from ear to ear having witnessed firsthand an incredible display of support in the local force.

Not that that particular point was ever in question. When Council first initiated the process to request a costing proposal from the Ontario Provincial Police last year, it was made crystal-clear it was done on the understanding that Shelburne did not have a policing problem, rather a police station problem.

The current facility, located in Town Hall, has long been inadequate to house the Shelburne force’s current 23 members. 

The preferred option would be to build a new facility, something that would likely cost at least $6 million. Unfortunately, the Town simply is not in a position to levy up that kind of dough, nor is it in a position to borrow the money to pay for it.

This is where the problems arose and the debate over whether or not the municipality could afford to keep its own police force originated. At most, the Town can afford to invest $3.8 million towards renovating the existing station. But once that’s done, that’s it. The Town will find itself in the precarious position of, potentially, not being able to fund another major project for several years. 

We have always supported local policing in both Orangeville and Shelburne, believing that any community that can afford to maintain its own police force should do so. 

As we see it, the only time any Canadian city or town should look at having the RCMP or a provincial police force replace a local force would be when the local force falls victim to corruption or morale problems that the police chief can’t solve.

That may once have been the case in Orangeville, where morale problems abounded in the wake of no fewer than four officers facing Police Act charges. But that has not been the case under the leadership of Chief Wayne Kalinski.

In the circumstances, we’re left wondering whether there’s any doubt that Orangeville Council will ultimately follow Shelburne’s lead and support retention of the Orangeville Police Service.

Money seems to be the only common factor in the two councils’ look at policing options, but for vastly different reasons.

While in Shelburne it was the cost of a  new police station, in Orangeville it’s a belief that having the OPP replace the OPS would save taxpayers millions of dollars.

That would certainly be the case if the OPP were able to continue providing policing services in urban centres at a fraction of the actual cost. But how confident can anyone be that that will continue to be the case with a provincial government determined to cut costs enough to have balanced budgets.

Clearly, the big advantage in having a local police force lies in its members being familiar with the town and knowing they can continue raising families in the town rather than face the possibility of a transfer to the far north or east.

Of course, one potential solution down the road could be the development of a county police force. And if Orangeville Council does decide against signing a contract with the OPP, there may also be potential for a partnership that would benefit both municipalities down the line. 

In the long run, there may be much to be said for having the Dufferin OPP detachment concentrate mainly on traffic enforcement and specific offences such as drug trafficking and arson, with a Dufferin County force doing all the other types of local law enforcement.

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