Here's where Ottawa's 10 remaining community police officers are working

Big changes come to the Ottawa Police Service today, as it brings all of its frontline officers under one chain of command, and gives its community officers new, larger catchment areas.

Ottawa Police Association 'not fooled' by changes, questions capacity

Ottawa police say they're still looking for two other suspects in connection with the home invasion. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

The 10 remaining community police officers take on new assignments today, and bigger coverage areas, as the Ottawa Police Service carries out a long-planned redeployment that affects hundreds of officers.

The community officers are the public face in the city's neighbourhoods, the officers that community groups come to know. They work out of their community policing centres, organize volunteers and attend events.

Their numbers have been reduced from 15 to 10 in a move that caused concern among some community associations and city councillors, who feared losing relationships and attention from individual officers.

Councillor cautiously optimistic

For instance, the constable responsible for Hintonburg and Mechanicsville will see her boundaries expand to take in the Carlington area, while Carlington's current community police officer moves further west.

Coun. Riley Brockington, whose ward includes Carlington, said he will meet with the new constable this week. He expects she will quickly get up to speed on the positive and negative things taking place in the neighbourhood, and meet the residents with whom she'll need to build relationships.

"Obviously when we go from 15 to 10, when there's a reduction, the immediate concern is that's more work, more coverage, more communities, more issues for the remaining police officers," Brockington said.

But, he said he's cautiously optimistic about the new model, and will give it time to work itself out.

He also said a clean slate brings a chance to talk with community police officers about what neighbourhoods are to expect from the police, and how residents can help.

Union questions capacity

The Ottawa Police Association argues the larger change that residents will see — if they engage with police more often than the rare 9-1-1 call — is a change in proactive policing.

Top brass at the police service have insisted the new model will free up all patrol officers to spend time thinking about how they can tackle the city's issues, in addition to responding to calls.

But OPA president Matt Skof sees the redeployment as a step back to an inefficient model the police used two decades ago, before it created neighbourhood officers to free them up from taking regular patrol calls. 

Skof doesn't see how the same officers will be consistently assigned to try to deal with problem addresses or to conduct prostitution sweeps.

"If you're in the ByWard Market, Rideau Street, you have incredible connections with the district (ie. neighbourhood officers), you'll immediately see a drop in service because you will not have that connection," Skof said.

"It will just be assigned to patrol."

By removing the neighbourhood districts, Skof also said his members lose a training ground or stepping stone to doing investigative work.

His members are frustrated by the changes, and "not fooled," Skof said.

Skof argued the real reason for the redeployment is to properly staff the patrol section, at the expense of the former neighbourhood officers.

"We're going back to a model where we have just enough resources to take our patrol calls so we're not exhausting our frontline services, which has been a problem for three or four years," said Skof.

"So we're going to be properly resourced on patrol, theoretically, but to suggest now that this is going to be a signal that being proactive is going to resolve neighbourhood issues is not accurate."

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