Leamington terminates $5.4M contract with OPP
The municipality had long-standing issues with the level of service provided by the OPP
Leamington has ended its $5.4 million contract with Ontario Provincial Police after nearly a decade of service, leaving the municipality to explore what's next when it comes to policing.
On Tuesday, Leamington council voted to terminate its three-year contract with the OPP within a year, after expressing dissatisfaction with the degree of service being provided by the police force.
"We need a different level of policing and they have not been willing to change that," Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald told CBC News Wednesday.
MacDonald said the OPP refuses to give them eight officers a shift, despite the muncipality being willing to pay more, and that the police force won't offer response time statistics.
Currently, only six officers cover Leamington's boundaries.
The OPP has not responded to a request for comment.
MacDonald added that the town seems to be going through a "minor crime wave" and though they've reached out for extra assistance to the Ministry of the Solicitor General, the request has "fallen on deaf ears."
"We are not rural, small-town Ontario," MacDonald said. "We have issues to deal with and we're really just trying to make this better for our residents."
Long-standing disapproval of OPP services
In December 2019, the majority of Leamington council members agreed to sign a new three-year contract with the OPP, despite already being unhappy with the service being provided.
At the time, MacDonald said council sent in a complaint, not about specific officers, but with staffing. In particular, the complaint said that officers often aren't replaced on sick or parental leaves and are frequently pulled to municipalities outside of Leamington.
The new contract started on Jan. 1, 2020 and included the ability to terminate with one year of written notice.
When Leamington removed its own local police team, it signed on to a five-year term starting Dec. 3, 2010. A second five-year contract was agreed to following that contract.
Due to mounting dissatisfaction over the years, MacDonald said they were now "forced" to terminate the contract early.
"We are trying to hold them accountable and we are being accountable to our residents," MacDonald said. "This is on them, this is not on us and we've asked repeatedly and we're just getting nowhere."
Moving forward, MacDonald said it's possible that Leamington may sign on with the Windsor Police Service — a deal that mayor Drew Dilkens said he'd be happy to accommodate.
"(The) City of Windsor / Windsor Police Service Board will be pleased to participate in any process that Leamington might set up to allow us to have a conversation with them about taking this on," reads an emailed statement from the mayor.
Chatham-Kent has also expressed interest in taking on the role.
But until formal conversations can be had, MacDonald said a consultant has been hired to report on the expected level of policing in the city.
The consultant, which costs $39,000, will submit a report by next month. The report will then go to council and eventually be followed by a request for proposals from other police divisions to provide service.
"It's about service, it's not about money...we want better service."