Thursday, May 23, 2024

MODG seeks citizen advisors on local policing

  • May 15 2024
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

GUYSBOROUGH — For the first time in more than a decade – and under orders from the provincial government – the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) is seeking citizen advisors on local policing to attend certain council meetings.

According to Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Shawn Andrews, who spoke to The Journal last week about a letter the municipality received in January from the Department of Justice, the province “would like to see the personal connection with the residents. They want to have two representatives [of the public] here,” when local RCMP deliver their reports, approximately every three months, to council’s committee of the whole (COW).

The volunteer advisors, he said, “would have input on local, provincial and federal initiatives that the RCMP do, and bring that public connection.”

A notice posted in The Journal last week states that MODG is looking for “Police advisory community members [who would be] responsible for providing advice in relation to the enforcement of law and the prevention of crime in the municipality. Members do not have jurisdiction relating to complaints, discipline or the internal management of the RCMP. We are looking for individuals who are passionate about improving public safety and building stronger relationships between the RCMP and MODG residents.”

At the same time, the municipality is advertising for a third member of the public to attend these meetings as a volunteer representing and reporting to the provincial justice minister. According to Andrews, “that’s been called a ministerial appointee... We kind of have to solicit invitations for that, and then we can provide that to the provincial government for them to ‘okay’.”

The moves mark a sharp departure on police matters for the municipality, where, for at least 10 years, council has received quarterly RCMP reports and provided commentary without additional formal public review or input at chambers.

“About 10 or 12 years ago, we advertised to have local representation and we had no one come forward saying they wanted to serve on a police advisory committee,” Andrews said. “We were doing our COW thing, with the local RCMP coming in quarterly. And then COVID came in, of course.”

Last summer, MODG council argued that its existing process worked well enough and that it didn’t need the citizen advisors, mandated under Sections 44 (1) and 57 (1) of the Police Act of Nova Scotia. But in an email to The Journal on July 17, provincial justice department spokesperson Andrew Preeper said, “Our position has not changed on this matter. Municipalities are responsible for establishing a Police Advisory Board or a Municipal Board of Police Commissioners that provides civilian oversight on behalf of the council. In May 2023, a letter was sent to all municipalities reminding them of their obligation.”

Asked whether MODG council was concerned it will run into the same lack of local interest it experienced a decade or more ago, Andrews said, “The onus will be on us to make sure that we give it its due diligence to hopefully fill those positions.”

According to the public notice, responsibilities include attending quarterly meetings to be held in conjunction with regular council sessions; and ensure that community needs and values are reflected in policing priorities, objectives, goals, programs and strategies.

“The new representatives would come for that [RCMP] section of the meetings and choose to stay or leave [afterwards],” Andrews said, adding: “Some of this is probably resulting from the mass casualty shooting... So, now, we’re getting this structure ramped up.”

Interested individuals should submit a brief letter, including their name, contact information and reasons for wanting to serve. The deadlines for applications are Friday, May 17 (police advisory community members) and Wednesday, May 22 (provincial representative).

Visit novascotia.ca/abc or call 1-866-206-6844 (toll free).