Po­lice depart­ment won’t be dis­banded

Amherst re­jects pro­posal from the RCMP

The Amherst News - - CUMBERLAND COUNTY - BY DARRELL COLE [email protected]­st­news.ca Twit­ter: @ADN­dar­rell

Amherst is stick­ing with its mu­nic­i­pal po­lice force.

Town coun­cil re­cently voted to step away from re­quest­ing a pro­posal from the RCMP fol­low­ing a pair of re­ports it com­mis­sioned last May. In­stead of mov­ing to­ward elim­i­nat­ing its mu­nic­i­pal po­lice force, coun­cil di­rected staff with both the town and the po­lice depart­ment to work to­gether on an ex­panded in­ter­nally-fo­cused re­view to seek in­creased ef­fi­cien­cies within the depart­ment while also in­ves­ti­gat­ing po­ten­tial ar­eas for ex­panded ser­vices.

“I per­son­ally al­ways sup­ported con­tin­u­ing with a lo­cal Amherst po­lice depart­ment be­cause it does so much for the com­mu­nity that helps pre­vent crime and keep­ing youth on the straight nar­row,” Amherst Mayor David Ko­gon said. “How­ever, when you’re spend­ing the amount of money we are on polic­ing we had to look at other op­tions. I was hop­ing all along it would turn out the way it did. The cost of polic­ing is a prob­lem and we have to deal with it, but dis­band­ing the Amherst Po­lice Depart­ment is no longer an op­tion.”

The po­lice bud­get is about $4.2 mil­lion, which rep­re­sents ap­prox­i­mately 22 per cent of the town’s $17-mil­lion bud­get.

The mayor said one of the con­cerns he had when look­ing at the RCMP is what the level of ser­vice would be com­pared to a mu­nic­i­pal force. He said with the ris­ing costs of the RCMP and things like re­sponse times, he can see other mu­nic­i­pal units look­ing at their own po­lice force.

“If you were to talk to the peo­ple of Springhill I’m sure they’d tell you they’re not happy with the re­sponse times com­pared to what they used to get,” Ko­gon said. “I’ve also spo­ken to a mayor in Monc­ton who told me they re­ally didn’t save any­thing by shift­ing from the city po­lice to the RCMP.”

With Ox­ford and the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Cum­ber­land also do­ing their own re­views of the ser­vice pro­vided by the RCMP, Ko­gon said he’d like to see Amherst’s po­lice depart­ment serv­ing a wider pop­u­la­tion.

Ko­gon said one of coun­cil’s top pri­or­i­ties has been to con­duct an in-depth study on the cost of polic­ing in Amherst. By do­ing these stud­ies and mak­ing its de­ci­sion the mayor said coun­cil has done its due dili­gence and will con­tinue to do so on one of the town’s ma­jor cost driv­ers.

Act­ing chief Dwayne Pike said the mem­ber­ship will be re­lieved with coun­cil’s de­ci­sion.

“It’s a big re­lief for our mem­bers,” Pike said fol­low­ing the meet­ing. “Ob­vi­ously when re­views such as this are tak­ing place there’s al­ways con­cern. We work hard to make things work and look­ing for ef­fi­cien­cies is an on­go­ing process.”

The act­ing chief said the process also has buy-in from staff which are work­ing hard to find ef­fi­cien­cies within the depart­ment. He said ev­ery­one within the depart­ment is com­mit­ted to work­ing to­gether for change.

The re­ports looked a polic­ing costs, both na­tion­ally and lo­cally, and sum­ma­rized the ser­vices presently of­fered by the po­lice depart­ment. The re­ports looked ahead 10 years and es­ti­mated polic­ing costs would in­crease by 21 per cent over that pe­riod, re­sult­ing in about $850,000 more per year in a decade com­pared to to­day.

In rec­om­mend­ing not to con­sider the RCMP op­tion, the re­port said there were un­cer­tain­ties about the cost of the RCMP as its staff is mov­ing for­ward with union­iza­tion, the po­ten­tial im­pacts to ser­vice by mov­ing from a mu­nic­i­pal force to RCMP is not fully un­der­stood, and there has been at least one case where a mu­nic­i­pal­ity de­cided to end its con­tract with the RCMP and cre­ate its own po­lice depart­ment.

The re­port also noted cor­re­spon­dence from the pub­lic safety and emer­gency pre­pared­ness min­is­ter that in­di­cated the RCMP is un­able to re­spond to re­quests to pro­vide mu­nic­i­pal polic­ing at this time.

CAO Greg Her­rett said the re­port al­lowed the town to look at polic­ing from both a mi­cro and macro level.

“Go­ing for­ward, hav­ing town and po­lice depart­ment staffs work­ing to­gether will al­low us to find ef­fi­cien­cies that could re­sult in bud­get sav­ings, place the fo­cus on in­ter­nal rather than ex­ter­nal so­lu­tions and en­sure con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment as well as an op­por­tu­nity for a deeper level of re­view on what we de­liver and how best to de­liver it,” Her­rett said in the re­lease. “This, in turn, will pro­vide a process to en­gage and ed­u­cate the com­mu­nity should the ser­vices pro­vided or ser­vice lev­els change.

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