Community police pilot will help entire city, promises interim chief
Says officers should be freed up to solve problems outside of high-crime areas
The whole city will get a crime-fighting boost when new neighbourhood police officers are deployed to three key communities, interim Chief Steve Bell told the Ottawa Police Services Board Monday.
In a heavily criticized move, the force withdrew all but 14 of about 60 neighbourhood officers in 2017.
Now the service plans to restore dedicated community police officers to the Vanier and Overbrook, Heron Gate, and Carlington and Caldwell communities next month.
"It's really about that reinvestment and realignment toward some of the work that we used to do, but making it better," Bell said Monday.
Unlike the previous community policing strategy, this pilot project will be specifically directed at neighbourhoods with high rates of stabbings, shootings, homicides and property crimes.
Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan questioned Bell about what she should tell her constituents, who will be disappointed to be left out of the pilot.
Bell responded that they want to start small, but that people across the city will reap the benefits.
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With a team of officers dedicated to proactive policing in the most challenging parts of the city, frontline officers will be able to put time into other areas, he said.
"Although there is a concentrated effort in certain neighbourhoods, there will be an increased availability of officers," he said.
"This is a net benefit to the entire community."
Impact to be studied
Eight officers and one sergeant will be assigned to each of the target neighbourhoods.
At the urging of the community, many of the officers will be assigned for five-year terms to ensure there are familiar with their assigned areas.
"It's pretty crystal clear that we need the same faces, we need the same voices, we need the same contacts and relationships with the residents," said Insp. Ken Bryden, the lead on the pilot project.
The value of the new pilot project will be evaluated by a group of academics from Carleton University, who will report back next year.
One of the reasons community police took a hit was because the service wasn't able to demonstrate the positive benefits, Bryden told the board, and they hope this evaluation will change that.
The officers said the force hopes to expand the revamped community police model to other areas if money becomes available in future budgets.