DEEP RIVER – Town council has decided to keep its local police service.
After spending nearly four years flirting with the idea of replacing the Deep River Police Service with the Ontario Provincial Police, town council decided to stay with the force which has served it for the more than 60 years.
On July 12, council voted 7-0 in favour of sticking with local law enforcement, and pledged to work with its police services board to find efficiencies and cost savings in its current operations.
Deep River Mayor Joan Lougheed said council has completed a very comprehensive and fact-filled review of the future of policing in Deep River, and decided to work with the Deep River Police Services Board to find efficiencies and savings in policing while maintaining service levels in the municipality.
Deep River Police Chief Barry Swarbrick said the department is very appreciative of the community support and is looking forward to continuing to serve and protect community members.
“I believe that with the input from our community, the Deep River Police Services Board and Deep River council there is still room for us to improve on our professional community policing delivery,” he said.
Swarbrick said he is very proud of the work of the policing staff for their professionalism, dedication and hard work. He said the police service understands council is financially accountable to the community and has an obligation to look at all options in order to balance costs with service.
“We understand the tremendous amount of work by council and respect its decision,” Swarbrick said. “We are also appreciative of the support by the Ontario Provincial Police and will continue to have a close working relationship to ensure our community receives the best policing.”
Const. Matt Barker, vice-president of the Deep River Police Association, said he and the rank and file – two sergeants and six constables plus an administrator, are ecstatic by the outcome.
“This has been a long process, and it's a great weight lifted off of all of us,” he said. “Council did its job, and at the end made the best choice for the town.”
He said the membership had an association meeting to vote on where it would want to go, and the majority preferred to keep the service as it has been the last six decades.
“We wanted to maintain that personal connection to the community,” Barker said. Based on the community support the officers received, the feeling was mutual.
“We have never had seen so much support from the people of the town before,” he said. “It is nice to feel wanted.”
Barker said the decision has been like a breath of fresh air, and the police service is looking forward to moving forward.
The process began in 2012 when Deep River council formally requested a costing from the OPP for the provision of municipal policing services. This process got derailed until 2015 when a moratorium was placed on costing proposals while the provincial billing model for municipal policing services was revised.
The OPP costing proposal as presented in January included a three-year transitional contract which would maintain the town's current service levels at a set cost of $1.61 million for each of the first three years, plus a one-time start-up cost of $218,015.
After the three years, Deep River would then be fully incorporated into the Ontario Provincial Police integrated service delivery model, with annual costs invoiced to the town. No definitive service levels or exact costs were provided to council.
In contrast, the current Deep River Police Service’s budget comes in at around $1.5 million annually.