By Nancy Kelly
Finding ways to balance public expectations with the realities of policing in today’s society is an ongoing challenge for rural police services.
Inspector Mike Payne, Kings District RCMP commander, acknowledged in the past 30 years, policing has been transformed by three major factors. Citing a 2005 study by the British Columbia Centre for Criminal Justice Research, Payne noted, “changes in technology,” which include computer-aided dispatching, new records management, radio communications and mobile work stations “have improved information sharing, but also resulted in making policing a more time-consuming process.”
Police services across the country are also faced with new training requirements that correspond to increased accountability and liability issues resulting from changes to legal and policy requirements.
An evolution in Canadian case law has resulted in changes to charter rights, warrants, consent and disclosure, fine-tuning the responsibilities of police and increasing evidentiary burdens.
The combination of these changes has resulted in “the reality that 40 per cent of an officer’s time is now spent in front of a computer,” a fact that directly impacts the amount of time that can be devoted to work outside the detachment, explained Payne.
“Another reality is that we can’t roll the clock back, we have to work with the variables we have. While it’s all good stuff, we have to meet new regulations all the time. And that requires constantly updating equipment, protocols and staff training,” added Payne.
Those variables prompted Payne to get creative and look at new ways to distribute work loads in the territory served by the Kings District RCMP, which has officers working out of detachments in New Minas, Wolfville and Kingston.
Kentville, which has its own police service, is the only area of Kings County not currently served by the RCMP.
“I am always looking at how to do business better and more efficiently,” he said, adding that his focus has been to explore partnerships both within and outside the RCMP to maximize resources to achieve the best policing service delivery.
The first re-alignment in the district came in the fall of 2011, when the Berwick detachment was closed and the town began partnering with the Municipality of the County of Kings to share policing resources in western Kings County. Under a two-year pilot project, 16 officers posted to Kingston provide all coverage for the western part of the County, including the town of Berwick.
“There have been some tweaks in the arrangement along the way, and the addition of some resources, but it seems to be working well,” said Payne, who has participated in regular status meetings between Berwick and the county to ensure the partners, which also include the villages of Aylesford, Kingston and Greenwood, are satisfied with service levels.
Modifications came to the eastern part of the district in late 2012, when Payne devised a new rotation that combines the manpower of the Wolfville and New Minas detachments. The new roster now has a total of 32 officers from the two detachments working cooperatively on eight teams. Two officers will be dedicated to Wolfville coverage, as always.
“We have taken the Wolfville town line and made it a dotted line. Officers now have more flexibility to respond as needed within an expanded service area,” he explained.
Payne said that up until last fall, all detachments were operating on different schedules. He is confident the newly-adopted system will get staff thinking as one seamless team, with more balanced workloads.
When the Kingston detachment reaches its full staff complement, it will also be functioning on a similar team rotation.
“We think it is a model that will really work for residents of Kings County, with (RCMP in) the whole county operating as one team,” said Payne.