Western New Brunswick communities eye swapping RCMP for regional force
Two municipalities in western New Brunswick are proposing to drop the RCMP in favour of a new regional police force.
Carleton North and Hartland councils are asking the provincial government, which is responsible for the RCMP contract, to allow the switch by January 2025.
The mayors say it's driven by the rising costs and concerns with the adequacy of the RCMP service.
"We see it as a lack of police presence and visibility of patrols," Carleton North Mayor Andrew Harvey told CBC recently.
"That's due to a lack of resources with the current provider, the RCMP. Their detachments are 50 kilometres away from the centre of this community."
Carleton North is a newly established municipality that includes Bath, Florenceville-Bristol, Centreville and surrounding rural areas.
Harvey said it's no fault of individual RCMP officers.
"We've noticed an increase in pricing but not the police presence that we had hoped for with the price that we were paying for the RCMP service," Hartland Mayor Tracey DeMerchant said.
Both mayors said their communities have felt the loss of local RCMP detachments, including one in Florenceville-Bristol, over the years. DeMerchant said she hopes a regional model could see the return of a local office with officers who live in the community and are familiar with it.
Plan calls for force with 16 officers
The high-level proposal Carleton North put forward is a regional force with 16 officers.
Carleton North pays $1,990,450 for RCMP services, while Hartland pays about $970,000. The proposal estimates the new force would cost $2.8 million.
Transition costs are estimated to be about $700,000. That would pay for building renovations, three vehicles and equipment.
The plan would rely on other forces for specialized services, as needed, such as a dog team, major crime unit, forensics and emergency response unit.
Province, mayors to meet
Moving forward with the plan requires provincial approval.
Geoffrey Downey, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Public Safety, said in a statement Friday it is "happy to discuss policing reform with the local governments in New Brunswick and looks forward to working with them on this important subject."
A meeting between Public Safety Minister Kris Austin and mayors is set for Wednesday.
The 2023-24 provincial budget included money for 80 more RCMP officers, including 51 in rural areas of the province. Harvey said they're unsure what that will actually mean for Carleton North.
New Brunswick RCMP did not provide an interview about the community concerns that have led to the proposal.
Cpl. Hans Ouellette, a spokesperson for the RCMP in New Brunswick, said in a written statement the new provincial spending "will allow for increased visibility and engagement in our communities."
"We know that people care about the police work in their communities and the New Brunswick RCMP is committed to utilizing the resources we have to provide the best possible service to the communities we serve, while remaining fiscally responsible to our budget allocation," Ouellette said.
Carleton North and Hartland are the latest communities in the province to consider the move.
Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview are studying policing services and whether to retain the Codiac Regional RCMP.
A report is expected to be presented to their councils this summer.