Changes are coming to how police services boards are organized locally, and across Ontario.

Police services boards are local police oversight bodies made up of representatives appointed by municipalities, the provincial government, and from the community. Municipalities which have specific policing contracts with the Ontario Provincial Police have a police services board. In Prescott and Russell counties, those municipalities are the Town of Hawkesbury, the Township of East Hawkesbury, and La Nation Municipality.

New provincial legislation means police services boards will now serve the territory of each detachment, rather than the specific municipality with the contract.

Policing services across Prescott and Russell counties are provided by two OPP detachments. The Hawkesbury detachment serves the Town of Hawkesbury, Champlain Township, East Hawkesbury Township, Alfred and Plantagenet Township, and the former Caledonia Township within La Nation Municipality. The Russell County detachment serves the remaining territory of La Nation, Casselman, Russell Township, and the City of Clarence-Rockland from stations in Embrun and Rockland.

Municipalities that do not have contracts with the OPP have advisory committees where the commanding officer of the detachment will meet with mayors. Municipalities with contracts often have extra services such as criminal record checks for residents, school resource officers, and access to grants for specific community safety projects.

According to Hawkesbury Police Services Board Chair Robert Lefebvre, the Ontario government wants to streamline the administration of policing.

“They don’t want to see multiple boards at the detachment level,” Lefebvre said.

However, municipalities with contracts who wish to keep a separate board for their municipality will have to make their wishes known to the Ministry of the Solicitor General.

According to Lefebvre, 20 per cent of the new detachment boards must be members of the community, and 20 per cent must be appointed by the Ontario government. Municipalities have until June 7 to notify the Solicitor General of the composition of the new detachment board.

The Hawkesbury OPP detachment board will be composed of five municipal councillors from all municipalities within the detachment, two provincial appointees, and two citizens. The Russell County OPP detachment will be composed of four municipal councillors, two provincial appointees, and three citizens.

Hawkesbury council approved a resolution endorsing the proposed composition of the Hawkesbury OPP detachment board on April 26, and East Hawkesbury council adopted a similar resolution on May 10. On May 11, La Nation council approved resolutions endorsing the composition of both the Hawkesbury OPP and Russell County OPP detachment boards.

Lefebvre said the new detachment boards will be implemented in 2022. He anticipates the implementation will coincide with the 2022 municipal elections, because councils usually appoint new representatives to police boards when a new council takes office.