Nova Scotia

Cumberland to review policing as complaints mount about low RCMP presence

Municipality of Cumberland Mayor Murray Scott says there have been complaints about the lack of RCMP "from one end of the municipality to the other." Council has taken steps toward a policing review.

Mayor Murray Scott, a former police officer, says a number of officers are on leave or have transferred

RCMP are contracted to police the Municipality of Cumberland, which is more than 4,200 square kilometres. (Robert Short/CBC)

The council for the Municipality of Cumberland in northern Nova Scotia approved a resolution Monday night instructing the chief administrative officer to initiate a review of police service options.

"We have consistently over the past year heard complaints from citizens from one end of the municipality to the other about the low presence of RCMP in our communities," said Mayor Murray Scott.

Few people would know more about policing in Cumberland County than Scott. He is a former police officer in Springhill, N.S., who later went into politics and served as the area MLA for 12 years, including a term as justice minister.

Scott said there are 27 RCMP officers who are stationed in Cumberland County. But he said several of those officers are either out on leave or have transferred elsewhere.

There are five detachments in the county, in Amherst, Oxford, Pugwash, Parrsboro and Springhill. But the majority of the officers are in Amherst, which now serves as the home of Cumberland District RCMP.

"I don't think officers get the opportunity to know the citizens of their communities," said Scott. "It's a real challenge with the numbers they are dealing with."

Murray Scott, a former police officer and Nova Scotia justice minister, is the mayor of the Municipality of Cumberland. (Submitted by Murray Scott)

The Municipality of Cumberland has a contract for RCMP policing through the Provincial Policing Services Agreement. In the 2021-22 fiscal year, the municipality paid just over $4.7 million in policing costs. The Department of Justice has advised there will be an increase of $517,000 in fiscal year 2022-23, an 11 per cent rise.

Cumberland County poses significant challenges due to its size. It is more than 4,200 square kilometres, the second largest Nova Scotia municipality behind Halifax.

The town of Amherst is the only community in the county that has its own police force, and it's possible the town force could be expanded further into the rural areas.

"We will decide the terms of reference for the review and we'll have public consultation as part of it," said Scott

He said he feels an expansion of the Amherst police service would be beneficial for municipal residents.

"I think communities like Pugwash, Oxford, River Hebert and Advocate and many others would all receive significant coverage."

The town of Amherst, N.S., has its own police force. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Scott said not having enough officers stationed in the more remote sections of the county also puts officers at risk.

Council has asked the CAO for a report in April addressing the logistics and estimated timeline for the review. Council is expected to consider the formal motion to conduct the review, moving forward with the process that will take 12 to 18 months.