Backgrounder: What Sackville residents want from the RCMP and what they’re paying

Sackville Town Council’s decision to move monthly RCMP briefings back behind closed doors seems doubly ironic from a public relations perspective given results of the latest town survey.

According to a graphic posted on the Town of Sackville Facebook page, “policing services”and “transparency” were the top two areas needing improvement in a survey based on the opinions of 323 people. (The town is now seeking more feedback in a follow-up survey that closes on August 14th.)

Judging from concerns raised repeatedly at town council, it appears that Sackville residents complain most about the RCMP’s perceived failure to enforce traffic laws such as speed limits.

And residents seem concerned too about how hard it is to reach the Sackville detachment by phone to report incidents, especially during evenings and weekends.

Those issues came up again during Monday’s council meeting.

Councillor Sabine Dietz said she hoped council would receive a report next month about what’s being done about speeding on Pond Shore Road.

She also pointed to ATVs travelling illegally on streets in Middle Sackville.

“Honestly, over the 15 years that I’ve now lived here, it’s increased considerably,” she said.

“There’s a number of people who go slow and they are there for work, I know that because I know where they’re going, but most of them are recreational and they’re not going slow.”

Councillor Sabine Dietz

Dietz said that she tried repeatedly to report incidents to the RCMP in Sackville, but would get diverted to Shediac on weekends and then not hear back from police, or if she did, the response would take at least a day or two.

“We need to know who to call when and how quickly will this actually get followed up because I gave up, it’s too slow,” she added.

Councillor Andrew Black said the issue of getting through to the RCMP was discussed recently during a liaison meeting on public safety.

He added that Sgt. Paul Gagné, head of the Sackville detachment, said the RCMP did not have a lot of staff for answering calls, but residents could get in touch with Larry Tremblay, Commanding Officer of the Mounties’ New Brunswick division with their concerns.

Councillor Andrew Black

Black noted that town staff were already in touch with Tremblay and would be discussing the issue with him soon.

He also reported on the RCMP response to complaints about ATVs on streets in Middle Sackville.

“The RCMP know about it, they monitor it and it’s their opinion that for the most part, people who use ATVs on public roads, even though they shouldn’t be, are doing it reasonably safely.”

Black added that the RCMP feel people should call them with a complaint if they see ATVs operating unsafely.

RCMP priorities

The Sackville detachment’s latest quarterly report places enhancing road safety “by targeting high-risk areas” at the top of its list of priorities.

The detachment has 10 full-time members, but it’s not clear how many are available to carry out that top priority at any given time.

The contract for RCMP policing services, signed by the town and the federal minister of public safety, states that members will not be replaced when they’re attending training courses or off on vacation or sick leave unless their illness lasts more than 30 consecutive days. [Article 5.5]

The contract also specifies that the federal government will pay 30% of Sackville’s policing costs, a subsidy designed to keep them relatively low.

Annual policing costs in Sackville are $352 per capita, well below the national average of $423 in 2019.

The $1,876,721 that the town has allocated to policing this year is the single largest item in its operating budget, but accounts for only 16% of the total $11,465,061 that the town is spending.

By contrast, annual policing costs in Amherst, which has its own police force, are $4,554,907 or $483 per capita and 24.5% of the town’s operating budget.

Sackville’s costs are expected to rise now that the union representing RCMP members has negotiated its first contract with the federal government, but so far, no details have been released.

RCMP figures show that a constable now earns between $53,000 and $86,110, while a staff sergeant’s pay can range from $109,000 to just over $112,000.

Big city police officers in Canada, who have been unionized for decades, earn substantially more.

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2 Responses to Backgrounder: What Sackville residents want from the RCMP and what they’re paying

  1. Les Hicks says:

    Thanks Bruce for this informative article regarding the Town’s contract with the RCMP for municipal police services. I was surprised to read that the Town’s costs for policing under this contract is less than the national average. Reading through the contract that you provided a link to in your article, I noted a few items that lead to more questions about this issue that would be nice to have answered by Town Council or the CAO.

    Section 2.4 states that the municipality is responsible for providing and paying for the necessary support staff required by the RCMP detachment. Is this cost included in the app. $1.8 million that the Town reports as it’s annual policing cost?

    Section 6.3 states that the CEO (mayor or CAO) determines the level of policing service provided by the RCMP. I have heard reports from the member in charge of the RCMP detachment at Town Council meetings that there are currently 10 officers devoted to the municipal policing duties of the detachment, but in the actual contract I don’t find any exact numbers mentioned. Annex A, which deals with the number of officers assigned to the municipal policing is blank. Is there an actual number of officers determined to be necessary by the mayor or CAO and the hours of contracted coverage listed somewhere in public documents? I have heard through members of the Fire Department that there is no police coverage for the Town for several hours after midnight when the officers are covering the Shediac area. It would be nice to know if this is in fact the case, and if so, why did the CEO representing the Town allow this to happen, considering that the CEO supposedly determines the level of policing provided? It also brings into question what value the Town is receiving for the $1.8 million it pays for the contract.

    Section 11 states that under the contract the Town pays a share of the following costs : recruitment and training costs for RCMP officers, police dog training, maintenance of Public Complaints Commission, and legal advice to the detachment. It also states that the Town pays 100% of the costs for the care of people in custody of the RCMP and of witness fees. As well, the Town pays separately for overtime paid to the RCMP in addition to the costs directly noted in the contract, if I understand it correctly. Are these charges included in the $1.8 quoted by the Town as well?

    I thought I had read somewhere (possibly the Tribune) a few years back that the Town collected rent from the RCMP for the space they use in Town Hall, but Section 12.0 states that the Town pays for 100% of the costs for accommodation for the RCMP (including office space, jail cells, etc) and section 12.6 states that all real property related to the municipal policing agreement remains the property of Canada. It would be nice to have these points clarified by Town Council or the CAO as well.

    Councillor Black’s statement, regarding complaints about ATVs on town roads, that “the RCMP know about it, they monitor it and it’s their opinion that for the most part, people who use ATVs on public roads, even though they shouldn’t be, are doing it reasonably safely”, is a perfect example of how frustrating it is to deal with the local RCMP’s laissez-faire attitude towards speeding and illegal vehicles on our public roads. His follow up statement that “the RCMP feel people should call them with a complaint if they see ATVs operating unsafely” is ridiculous, considering how many problems people, including Councillor Dietz, have had in trying to report activities of people driving ATVs UNSAFELY to the RCMP when there are so many different phone numbers listed (including a Shediac number) and there are such long wait times that people finally give up in frustration.

    Surely if the Town went back to establishing it’s own municipal police force that dealt strictly with policing issues within the town limits, even if the associated costs ended up being a bit higher (which remains in question), the residents of Sackville would have reliable, 24 hour police protection with reasonable response times, and stricter enforcement of traffic laws.

    • Sharon Hicks says:

      Les – You have pointed out the very issues which we both noticed as well.

      The only thing I would add to this well-researched and well-presented comment is that according to the Organizational Chart for Town Government, it would appear that the RCMP answers directly to the Mayor and Council, and bypasses the office of the CAO.

      In the contract between the RCMP and the town it also states that the CEO refers to the mayor, or reeve, or whatever title is used for the top ELECTED official in the municipality. There is no mention made in the contract about any communications going through the CAO – who is not an elected official.

      If current RCMP communications are indeed going through the CAO’s office, then that would raise other questions of an organizational nature.

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