October 12, 2017 7:03 pm
Updated: October 16, 2017 2:07 pm

Ontario’s smallest police force in Stirling-Rawdon dismantled in favour of OPP

There is a new sheriff in Stirling-Rawdon. A ceremony was held at 6PM Thursday to disband the township's small municipal police force and bring in the OPP to handle law and order. Morganne Campbell looks at what prompted Ontario's smallest police force to switch badges.

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At eight officers and a chief of police, Stirling-Rawdon Police has the distinction of being Ontario’s smallest police force. But that chapter in the town’s history book is coming to an end as the OPP is set to take over policing the township of just 5,000.

“At 6 o’clock tonight (Thursday) any 911 calls will be dispatched through to the OPP in Madoc and the OPP will continue to police us going forward,” explained Roxanne Hearns, the townships CAO.

The decision to change badges stems from budgetary pressures.

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The municipal force cost about $1.8 million a year which took up a large chunk of the township’s nearly $6-million annual budget. In June the OPP presented the force with a business case town council couldn’t resist with major savings expected to be in the tens of thousands.  But that’s after a transitional period of three years. Until then, the price tag hovers at between 1.5 and 1.7 million.

“In three years, we’re hoping it will come back down to be more in line with our neighbouring municipalities,” said Hearns.

All but two officers from the municipal force will be joining the OPP. The police station will be closed and turned back over to the township.

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On Monday, the officers from Stirling-Rawdon will report to the Central Hastings OPP detachment and then to Orillia for training at the OPP Police Academy.

While council voted unanimously in favour of switching to the OPP, some residents are worried about losing the “small town advantage.”

We know the police officers by name they know us they know our kids they know the local hangouts, they know who is strange to the town. When you bring in OPP they don’t know any of that,” said Lynn Brown, a local business owner.

Resident Joanne Savage is concerned about cost and response times as the OPP detachment is about 25 kilometres from Stirling.

“Once it’s gone it’s gone and we’ll never have it back. Never,” said Savage.

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