New police recruits and a larger building are on the wish list for the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force.
In a presentation, made during a recent Quispamsis council meeting, about the police force's multi-year strategic plan, Chief Wayne Gallant said the continuing challenge the force faces is providing overall community safety with its current staffing levels.
Operating in communities with growing populations, Gallant said the department – with a budget of about $7 million in 2021 – will need to hire new officers. The last time the force hired recruits was in 1998 when four officers were added, he said.
"The police force needs to grow at some point in time to match the growth in the community," he said. "I think that time should be sooner rather than later."
Gallant added with the major shifts in policing demands, a staff shortage presents some risks when covering two communities like Quispamsis and Rothesay.
"If we have one mental health call that we have to escort a person to the hospital, then there's a three-hour time period where two of our officers are essentially tied up at the Saint John Regional Hospital, leaving one officer back here to protect the two communities," he said.
Gallant said the police force's current building also isn't meeting the department's needs, with equipment and functional space requirements having "grown exponentially" since the building was constructed in 2003. He said the building size is inadequate for serious investigations and there's not enough office space.
Another challenge facing the force is a shortage of tech support for everyday office needs, as well as needs related to criminal cases. The force employs a part-time employee to deal with IT support, but it's not enough, he said.
"Every crime almost today has some technological element, and our patrol officers are not well-equipped to deal with those sorts of investigations so we need a specialist," Gallant said.
Quispamsis Coun. Noah Donovan asked if the police force has plans to expand to allow a cell to house individuals overnight since officers drive suspects to Saint John.
Gallant said sharing regional services with Saint John makes sense and there are no plans to add an overnight cell. However, the chief did say there are concerns about having officers have to leave the community unprotected to drive to the city.
Gallant also mentioned the police agreement between Rothesay and Quispamsis has remained unsigned for several years.
According to the town's spokesperson Aaron Kennedy, the agreement has been extended indefinitely until a new agreement is signed, and discussions are ongoing.
"This has no impact on the professional service the members of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force continue to provide to the residents of Quispamsis and Rothesay," Kennedy wrote in an email.
Robin Grant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal