Saugeen Shores Police Chief reports to Police Services Board

Saugeen Shores Police Services Board held its second meeting following its official recognition since the recent municipal election.

Board members, Doug Freiburger, Georgina Elliot (Sec.), Deputy Mayor Don Matheson, Deanna Buckton and Chair Councilor Dave Myette, met on Wednesday, February 20th, where the Board heard a report from Police Chief Mike Bellai.

Chief Bellai highlighted many aspects of the local police service that has included several arrests related to drug offences.

“This year, we have made 22 arrests with 37 charges, including those with fentanyl, and weapons,” said Bellai. “Drugs will never be eradicated but suppressing the trafficking will deter residual crime, such as break and enters and robberies.”

He also pointed out that the service is involved in education in  schools.  “We are rolling out the new KIDS system, that replaces the former DARE program, in elementary schools to teach children at an early age about the dangers of drugs, bullying, internet issues and many others.”  The program will be carried out by Constable Ian Clarke and is expected to begin in March.

The Chief also reported to the Board that the new Police headquarters is on time and on budget.  “Roofing is being installed, masonry work is going on, garage doors have been installed along with all the windows, so things are really shaping up.”

He also said that the Canine Unit is going ahead and that Constable Erik Luscombe has been selected to become the canine handler.  “Erik and his young family are committed to welcome a canine officer into their home because it also means being part of the family.”  In the past, the community has fundraised to help support the former Canine unit and it is hoped that once again the community will get behind the new canine officer and appreciate the value that a canine unit brings to the community.  “A canine officer helps in many ways,” says Chief Bellai. “There are older citizens who many wander due to dementia and a canine is invaluable in located them.  The canine also goes out in to the community to build relationships.  It is also integral when it comes to searching when it comes to drug trafficking.”

The Chief also explained that ‘life-work balance’ is very important for police.  “Officers see a lot of things and it’s important for their mental health that a ‘life-work balance’ is ensured and we are employing programs for officer health.”

With the new Provincial Police Act changes brought in by the Ford government, Chief Bellai said that he was still studying the multi-page changes.  “After a cursory review, one thing I do agree with is the 120 day turn-around limit for SIU (special investigation unit) investigations for officers.  Some of these ‘investigations’ are unnecessary and a lot of them that continue on for long periods create a lot of pressure on officers.  Other than that, I still want to fully examine the new changes that have been brought in.”

Although Bellai is relatively new to the position, having been hired in December, 2017, he has implemented several efficiencies that has resulted in a reserve fund of some $154,000 that is expected to be a back-up for operational and, perhaps unexpected, expenses.

The Board voted that a cap will be placed on the reserve fund of $250,000.