Ottawa

New Ottawa police board wants old community police model

The Ottawa Police Services Board kicked off its first meeting by grilling police officials about what one of member called the "failure" of the new community police model.

'It wasn't broken, we didn't need to fix it,' new police board member says

Members of the Ottawa Police Services Board want to see more community officers assigned to specific neighbourhoods to identify and prevent crime. (Ottawa Police Service )

Ottawa may have a new police board, but its members would like to go back to the old way of policing.

The board kicked off its first meeting of the term by grilling police officials about what one of member called the "failure" of the new community police model, which was instituted in 2017.

They leaned on police leadership to reassign more officers to specific communities so they can build trust in the neighbourhood.

"We had a model that worked very well, that the community appreciated," said Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, who is new to the board.

"It wasn't broken, we didn't need to fix it."

Ottawa police reassigned more than 60 community-based officers in 2017 to front-line patrol jobs as a cost-saving measure.

Full-time community police officers were reduced from 15 to 10.

Since then, neighbourhood associations and business improvement areas have complained the police have not been as responsive to trouble.

Every member of the new board said they would like to go back to the old method of community policing. (Laura Osman/CBC)

Member Sandy Smallwood called the changes to community policing a failure and told Chief Charles Bordeleau he wants police to acknowledge that.

Police pitch new plan

Police admit there are gaps in the way officers are embedding in neighbourhoods, said Deputy Chief Steve Bell.

But he maintains community policing was never abandoned.

Community officers are identifying issues and working well with the community, he said. The problem is that they don't have the resources to solve those community woes.

That's why police plan to create 20 new positions in the next two years.

The officers won't be embedded in the community, but they'll be assigned to jump on any issues community officers bring up.

"I think we've done a good job at listening to our community and letting them bring to us the issues that they have," he said. "Now we just need to make sure we really increase the capacity to respond to those issues."

Deputy Chief Steve Bell defended the new community police model and maintained the force never abandoned community policing. (CBC)

Ottawa lost about 62 neighbourhood officers in 2017, but they're coming back in new roles, Bell said.

He said officers playing a similar role include the direct action response team, responsible for monitoring gang activity, bike patrol officers and school resource officers.

After hiring 20 new officers, Bell said the force should have what it needs.

"We think we're building that capacity and going to be able to respond to the issues that are identified," he said.

Newly elected police board chair Coun. Diane Deans feels the service did abandon community policing in 2017, and she wants that to change. (Laura Osman/CBC)

Newly elected police board chair Coun. Diane Deans was skeptical.

"I heard loud and clear that people want to know the police officers, they want to see them at community events," Deans said.

The board only has so much control over how police use their resources.

Still, this won't be the last officers hear about permanently embedding officers in communities, Deans vowed.

"That's what we all seem to agree worked best in our neighbourhoods and I think what we would like to see this new model move towards," she said.

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