After six months of holding RCMP briefings in public, two Sackville town councillors have signalled it may be time to start hearing from the police again behind closed doors.
During last night’s town council meeting, Councillor Bill Evans suggested that while it’s important to conduct as much town business as possible in public, he’s troubled by the lack of candour at the monthly RCMP briefings.
“It’s important that…anything we can do in public, we do in public, and so that kind of transparency is good, but also the more candid back and forth,” he said, suggesting that private, in-camera meetings would allow the RCMP to provide details they can’t make public while giving councillors a chance to discuss issues that concern them.
Evans wondered if there weren’t a way that council could hold private and public sessions with the police.
He was responding to RCMP Sgt. Paul Gagné who ended his monthly report last night by complaining that the open sessions aren’t as productive as the ones behind closed doors.
“Since we changed the format of our present meeting to being open to the public, I personally don’t find as much value in being here as I did before because I found our exchanges much more, I would say, hearty and substantial,” Gagné told council.
When Councillor Michael Tower said that maybe one in every four of the RCMP briefings could be held in private, Gagné suggested four public sessions a year with the rest behind closed doors.
Town Council moved to public RCMP briefings in September partly in response to a series of reports in the Irving-owned newspapers detailing the frequency of closed municipal council meetings in the province.
Warktimes also raised concerns about the lack of public briefings from the RCMP during a council meeting in August when I pointed out that policing accounts for a large chunk of the town budget.
This year, for example, Sackville plans to spend nearly $1.9 million for police services, the largest, single expenditure in its $11.4 million operating budget.
So far, the public RCMP briefings have been fairly routine, except for a session in October when Councillor Tower pressed the police to do more to protect Sackville’s water supply –an issue the public wouldn’t have learned about under the old system of in-camera, police briefings.
Tower pointed out at the time that he had raised the issue of oil tanker trucks parking near the water supply repeatedly during closed-door sessions with the RCMP.
To read coverage of that meeting including the RCMP response to Tower’s concerns, click here.