Saint John declares support for city officers

Saint John police got a vote of confidence from city council Monday night, after a recent push for regional policing was said to have been difficult for the local force.

Motion to 'support the troops' follows failed bid for regional policing model

Saint John police got a vote of confidence from city council Monday night, after a recent push for regional policing was said to have been difficult for the local force.

Following a failed bid to get nearby communities interested into the idea of a unified police force in the greater Saint John area, Coun. Shirley McAlary made the motion that asked councillors to profess their support for the 166 officers who look over the city.

"They just need this reassurance and confidence from us," said McAlary.

"I felt it was necessary to put this motion forward so people would know we do have faith in the force."

McAlary's motion received unanimous support, however, Coun. Bill Farren questioned the need for a public stance on supporting the officers.

"Our guys are big boys, they don't need to be defended," said Farren.

"Every time someone sneezes, I don't think we have to run out and protect, especially these guys in blue, they've got a good reputation, a good rapport … they can do a good job themselves."

Saint John Mayor Mel Norton's motion to look at options for regional policing didn't even find a seconder among the members of the Fundy Regional Service Commission at its meeting last week.

Leaders in communities such as Grand Bay-Westfield, Rothesay, and Quispamsis were not on board, over fears that any policing arrangement with the city of Saint John would lead to higher taxes.

The three town mayors also said they were satisfied with their current policing arrangement.

Norton determined to push regional co-operation

During the discussion at Monday evening's council meeting, Norton said he remains firm on the need for regional services, and insisted that was not a slight to the city's own police force.

"We have an excellent police service … they are absolutely first class," he said.

"That is a completely different conversation from the one we were having at the Regional Service Commission … It's my view that the city of Saint John is an economic driver of this entire province and we're going to act like the driver we are.

"We're going to take a perspective that's 30,000 feet, not three feet, " said Norton.

"You want to talk about progress — the greatest cities in our country, in North America, the world, are the cities that are doing it on a regional basis. We look down the road and see Moncton, and it's doing wonderful. And we look further down the road and see Halifax and it's doing fantastic.

"And we wonder, why is it Saint John has the highest unemployment rate of any urbanized centre in the country? We can do better if we look at things from a regional perspective."

The Fundy Regional Service Commission covers 14 communities from Musquash to St Martins.

Norton said the lack of support for regional policing is a setback, but he isn't ready to give up on the idea to work closer with outlying communities.

"There's all kinds of opportunities, you can do all kinds of things on a regional basis and we can do more," he said.

"It's incumbent on us, as the leaders of this region, to find every opportunity we can."

Saint John has its own police force, while the Rothesay Regional Police Force covers Rothesay and Quispamsis. Grand Bay-Westfield has contracted its policing service from the Mounties since 1998.