Nova Scotia

MP says moving RCMP communications centre to Dartmouth too risky

Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey says he’s relieved to hear an independent consultant will be taking a second look at the RCMP’s plan to move its communications centre from Truro, N.S., to Dartmouth, N.S.

Liberal MP Bill Casey has long worried the proposed location increases likelihood of a service interruption

The emergency call centre takes 911 calls from the public and performs risk assessments for the officers they dispatch. (Nova Scotia RCMP)

The MP for Cumberland-Colchester says he's relieved to hear an independent consultant will be taking a second look at the RCMP's plan to move its emergency call centre from Truro, N.S., to Dartmouth, N.S.

Bill Casey said this week he received assurances from the office of Ralph Goodale, minister of public safety, that someone will be examining the risks associated with a proposal to relocate the Nova Scotia operations call centre to Dartmouth.

The Liberal MP has long been concerned that moving the RCMP dispatch centre close to its own headquarters and Halifax Regional Police's dispatch centre increases the likelihood of a service interruption.

Having the centres in one area "makes them vulnerable to all kinds of things that could happen — power failures, weather events, human intervention, chaos from foreign actors, it could be anything," he said from Ottawa.

"If they're all clustered together, it increases their chance of failure."

The RCMP headquarters in the Burnside area of Dartmouth is about 95 kilometres from the RCMP operational communications centre in Truro. (Robert Short/CBC)

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said the independent examination of the proposed location will happen as the relocation project continues.

She said public safety was at the forefront of the decision to move the call centre.

Casey said all the research he has read and examples from other jurisdictions have stressed the importance of keeping police communications centres in different communities. For instance, he said in New Brunswick, one centre is in Fredericton and the other in Moncton.

Operators in the RCMP operational communications centres take 911 calls from the public and perform risk assessments for the officers they dispatch to the scene. They are often tasked with calming the person on the other end of the phone, while they look up addresses, licence plates and other police records to help prepare an officer for any possible danger.

Casey starting looking into emergency dispatch centres in 2016 after learning the RCMP planned to move 55 jobs out of his riding.

He shared with CBC excerpts of a 2004 RCMP "H" Division Operational Communication Centre Review — which he obtained through access to information requests — that found there would be risks associated with having two police communication centres close together in the Halifax area.

One recommendation said the "RCMP should not locate their primary [operational communication centre] within the Halifax Regional Municipality." Another found the service should be consolidated at the Truro location.

"It couldn't be clearer. But it took me two years to get that. And then I had to fight through the information officer to get it," Casey said.

Bill Casey is the MP for Cumberland-Colchester. (CBC)

He said he's still in the process of obtaining a more recent RCMP review, which he believes supported the move. Casey said he's sceptical the risk has been mitigated since he's only ever heard through briefings from CSIS and police about heightened risks in general.

"The RCMP on one hand in Ottawa tells us the RCMP is under more threat now than they've ever been, that foreign actors have much better equipment than the Canadians do and it's getting worse all the time," he said.

"Meanwhile, the RCMP in Halifax say the threats are diminishing.… I hope this assessment that will be done will find out what's right."

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