A special meeting of the West Nipissing Police Services Board (PSB) was called by Chair Chris Fisher on July 16. It was the first session since March 11, as meetings were put on hold due to Covid. Fisher explained that the PSB was not provided the exemption to meet electronically under Covid-19, as other boards and committees were, so they had to wait until they could meet in person. Attending were board member Roch St-Louis, Inspector Mike Maville of the Nipissing West OPP, and Secretary Mélanie Hébert. Board member Denis Sénécal did not attend.
Vacancies an issue
The lack of board members remains an issue, as the province has not been making appointments, leaving the two provincial appointee positions vacant. The Ontario Association of Police Service Boards (OAPSB) has suggested changes to the OPP detachment boards, including increased flexibility and allowing the boards themselves to make 3-year appointments at large. “That’s actually not far off from what we suggested in the beginning… the provincial board more or less echoed what [West Nipissing] put forward. It’s not just us – apparently the system is broken for everyone – it’s not working when you lose an appointee,” Fisher commented. “If they are not going to give us one or two more people on the board… there might be a way we can work around it – maybe bring people on as advisory – so we’ve got bodies.”
Defunding the police
Chair Fisher noted that there has been “a lot of chatter about defunding the police …The Sudbury police are interested in decriminalizing opioids… In Portugal they didn’t just decriminalize, they put in a whole set of social services.” Fisher pointed out that the OPP is also answering mental health calls that are not really police business, and asked Insp. Maville what the OPP position was. Maville said that the OPP has not put forward any position, but he did address the concept of defunding the police.