Retired police officer to chair Carleton North, Hartland police review committee

by | Oct 13, 2023

Former District RCMP Commanding Officer John de Winter to lead next step of process, which includes public consultation

The District of Carleton North and the town of Hartland recruited a retired police officer with more than three decades of policing experience to help chart the future of policing in central and northern Carleton County.

Retired District Commander and Staff Sergeant John de Winter agreed to chair the District of Carleton North and Hartland Police Review Committee.

Hartland Mayor Tracey DeMerchant, Carleton North Mayor Andrew Harvey and de Winter made a joint announcement on Oct. 12, detailing the next steps towards an improved police presence in the central and northern Carleton County communities.

De Winter told the River Valley Sun that the committee will begin the review portion of the process to improve policing levels in the region.

“They want an increased police presence, a 24-7 model similar to what they have in Woodstock,” de Winter said.

He explained the review will compare service models to decide which works best for the Carleton North and Hartland communities.

“They’re certainly open to all options,” de Winter said. “One thing for sure, they want an increased presence.”

De Winter explained the committee already determined a goal for a detachment in Carleton North and a sub-detachment in Hartland.

While the long-closed RCMP detachment in Florenceville-Bristol was sold, the former police station in Hartland could be quickly available for the sub-detachment.

The retired police officer understands the value of being part of the community. He explained when the RCMP transferred him to Florenceville, his family became part of the community, and his children went to the local school.

He said that police presence stretches beyond just more patrols to permanent local detachments. Residents want officers in the community, in the schools and at local events.

In their press release, the two mayors and de Winter explained the ongoing review and public consultation is part of the long process required to upgrade policing services.

The release described policing as an important obligation to every citizen and a point of discussion in our homes, schools, and businesses throughout the District of Carleton North and Hartland.

Following amalgamations in both communities, the newly elected councils agreed to form a joint police review committee.

Justice and Public Safety Minister Kris Austin approved completing the official review outlined in the province’s Police Service Delivery Model Process Guide.

The committee will host public meetings to gather information and answer questions to fulfill the required public engagement. It will also encourage feedback through a survey.

“The police have an incredible influence in the lives, safety, and well-being of our communities, and I see the committee’s work as an opportunity to provide the best policing model possible,” said de Winter.

With 15 years in the RCMP and another 15 in municipal forces, de Winter said he knows the value of both.

“I love the RCMP,” he said. “They’re a great police service.”

But, he added, he also knows a municipal police service can deliver excellent results.

“It’s a review. It’s not a criticism of the existing service,” de Winter said.

Mayor DeMerchant welcomed de Winter to the role of committee chair.

“We are confident that his knowledge and experience will enable us to propose an excellent and affordable police service for our community.”

Mayor Harvey said the committee and its review will address the community’s policing concerns.

“Policing is a major issue to the people of Carleton North,” he said. “Our residents want to see a local police service that is highly present and effective across our entire municipality to serve and protect our citizens.”

De Winter said the committee still must schedule public meetings and the timing of the survey, but the committee has met several times over the past three months.

He said while the committee has a policing vision in mind, it still must study significant issues, including the level of services, number of officers and costs.

“There may be a few more officers,” de Winter said, “but that needs to be determined.”

He said the committee still must determine the cost of the desired service. He said he believes Carleton North and Hartland currently pay approximately $3 million annually for the current RCMP service. De Winter called that the starting point.

De Winter recognizes the RCMP is an excellent force as it offers services and assets that municipal forces cannot provide.

De Winter said municipal forces secure services such as call centres, 9-1-1 dispatchers, dog services, helicopters and major crime units through MOUs (Memorandums of Understanding) with larger forces or the RCMP.

The National Police Federation, representing New Brunswick RCMP, raised concern about the policing plan, advising residents to question the committee’s plans.

“Carleton North and Hartland town Councils are considering other, more expensive and less specialized policing services,” the federation noted in a social media message, “and residents only have until October 27 to have a say on how your policing tax dollars are spent.”’

They noted the RCMP currently has 860 members across 41 detachments, covering 97 per cent of New Brunswick’s landmass and 70 per cent of the population.

The federation questioned the committee’s lack of public consultation to this point, adding the reported $2.8 million budget would not deliver the policing residents expect.

“While the high-level proposal has largely been kept secret, we know from other municipalities who have conducted police reviews across Canada and in New Brunswick that these estimates are too low,” the federation said.

De Winter said the goal of the review will determine the cost, staffing and service levels needed to meet the demands of the public, which include improved response time, greater presence in school and community events and expanded police visibility.

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