St. George, Blacks Harbour consider regional police force

St. George and Blacks Harbour are proposing a community police force that would cover the southwestern communities and replace the RCMP.

Public Safety Minister Bruce Northrup must approve requests from municipalities to leave the RCMP

St. George and Blacks Harbour are proposing a community police force to provide policing that would cover the southwestern communities and replace the RCMP.

The report, which is now on the desk of Public Safety Minister Bruce Northrup, suggests a regional police department can be established for the two communities for about the same cost as the current RCMP service. 

Blacks Harbour Mayor Terry James said the proposed police force would have between five and eight officers 

The municipalities of St. George and Blacks Harbour have sent a report to Public Safety Minister Bruce Northrup that suggests a regional police service in their communities would be possible. (CBC)
"The costs are comparable. It would depend on the size of the force and factoring those costs in, but we feel that we could do it," James said.

James said the tentative name for the force is the Eastern Charlotte Police Department.

The report proposes to contract specialized police services with the Saint John Police Force.

The communities cannot drop the RCMP without permission from the Department of Public Safety. There is no word on when Northrup will decide on the fate of the proposed Eastern Charlotte Police Department.

The idea of a regional police force is supported by Charlotte County residents, such as Peter Haley.

Haley recalled an accident in early May when it took 19 minutes for the RCMP to arrive on the scene. An ambulance and a fire truck had already shown up.

He said he believes response times would be much better with a community police force.

"Have somebody close by that's going to be prompt on arriving at the right time the way they're supposed to,” Haley said.

LSDs also interested

It isn’t just the two municipal councils that are interested in joining a regional police force, according to the Blacks Harbour mayor.

James said surrounding local service districts are paying attention to what is happening in St. George and Blacks Harbour.

"I can tell you with absolute certainty we've had many expressions of interest but everybody's just kind of waiting for the minister's decision," she said.

The southwestern communities aren’t the only ones that are studying the possibility of creating a regional police force

Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown said the RCMP provides a quality service to the communities that the force cover. (CBC)
Last week, the Fundy Regional Service Commission passed a motion to study a regional police force. The study will look at the costs of the Saint John Police Force covering all of the communities in the region or just the cost of policing specific communities.

Joan Seeley, the commissioner for the Simonds local service district, initiated the motion last week to study a regional police force. She said rural communities are being asked to ante up more money for the RCMP to police their areas.

Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown, who is the commanding officer for the New Brunswick RCMP, said communities need to consider the service the RCMP provides and the assets at its disposal.

He said the RCMP is the most cost-effective model because policing is expensive.

Dean Secord, the president of the New Brunswick Police Association, said a regional force of municipal officers would serve communities better than the RCMP.

Secord said all communities would have a voice on the police commission rather than a force controlled by Ottawa.

However, Brown also said the RCMP is committed to offering high quality police services throughout the province.

"The RCMP is a federal organization, but I can tell you that I police the province of New Brunswick from my office, and I look out for the interests of New Brunswick. I don't police Charlotte County based on what comes out of Ottawa," he said.