By Nancy Kelly
One year into the shared police project between communities in western Kings County, the focus is shifting to the evaluation process.
Project partners met Nov. 9 in Berwick for their regular review of policing statistics and trends. Discussion turned to evaluating the progress of the 18-month pilot project that began in Oct. 2011 with the closure of Berwick’s RCMP detachment and the transfer of its officers to the Kingston detachment. Berwick initiated the project as a cost-saving measure.
John Prall, Berwick’s outgoing mayor, is optimistic “the public is starting to feel more secure,” with the shared police model, but added more needs to be done to educate and convince area residents of its value.
“We have always had our own police force and changing that mindset is hard,” added Prall.
While he was pleased to learn that Berwick’s dedicated officer has started a flex schedule that includes some evening shifts, Prall believes improvements need to be made to the satellite office.
“Our store front office hasn’t been a success and getting a detachment back would be a financial burden for the town. We need to find a solution of some kind.”
Inspector Mike Payne reported two of three officers being added to the detachment have been hired, but have yet to start their new positions. It’s anticipated all three new members will be in place by the New Year, bringing the detachment’s complement of officers up to 16.
Berwick mayor-elect Don Clarke observed policing was a campaign issue during the recent municipal election.
“I got mixed emotions going door to door, but once I explained the benefits (of the police agreement) people seemed to understand and accept it better.”
Steps in the evaluation process will unfold after Payne meets with the newly-elected county and town councils in the weeks ahead.