Cape Breton Regional Police Profile

Desiree Vassallo
January 24, 2012
By Desiree Vassallo
Fostering community leadership to ensure security and quality of life is the vision Chief Peter McIsaac and the Cape Breton Regional Police Service (CBPRS) has set in its 2012-2015 Strategic Plan, which also outlines four strategic pillars of focus for the future. 1) Valued human resources – to professionally and personally support members, the organization’s most valuable asset. 2) Serving the community – addressing public safety, the basis for its existence. 3) Ensuring effective partnerships – working “with” the people members serve, who share a desire for public safety. 4) Pursuing financial stability – providing the most fiscally responsible and efficient service possible within ongoing economic pressures.

Fostering community leadership to ensure security and quality of life is the vision Chief Peter McIsaac and the Cape Breton Regional Police Service (CBPRS) has set in its 2012-2015 Strategic Plan, which also outlines four strategic pillars of focus for the future.

1) Valued human resources – to professionally and personally support members, the organization’s most valuable asset.

2) Serving the community – addressing public safety, the basis for its existence.

3) Ensuring effective partnerships – working “with” the people members serve, who share a desire for public safety.

4) Pursuing financial stability – providing the most fiscally responsible and efficient service possible within ongoing economic pressures.

The plan, developed in consultation with the community, local government and service staff, is a first for the CBRPS. It will guide service delivery and provide a basis to measure activities and ensure accountability.

While the plan may be new, the vision of community leadership has guided the organization since it began policing in 1995.

The path to the present

The CBRPS was formed through the amalgamation of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) – the second largest in Nova Scotia – uniting officers and services from the former Sydney, North Sydney, Sydney Mines, Glace Bay, New Waterford, Dominion and Louisbourg police forces.

The 204 sworn officers and 30 civilian staff police the CBRM, all rural areas of the Cape Breton County and the Membertou First Nation, serving 102,000 people over a 2,500 kilometre area. The service has nearly 15 different specialized sections and teams – including patrol, K-9, forensic identification, emergency response, marine/dive and polygraph – making it one of the few full-service police agencies in Nova Scotia.

An in-house records department stores and maintains all necessary information to complete files and move cases through the courts, handling public requests for police reports, criminal records, fingerprinting services and Freedom of Information Act requests.

The CBRPS also houses an on-site lock-up facility operated by six jailors.

Partnerships are key to police operations; with municipal funding for 169 officers, the service receives nearly $4 million a year in cost recovery from other sources, including the Nova Scotia “Boots on the Street” program, the RCMP through the Integrated Traffic Unit, Membertou First Nation and Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board (for school liaison officers).

CBRPS members are also seconded to the Criminal Intelligence Service of Nova Scotia and the RCMP National Weapons Enforcement Support Team.

CBRM call volume has increased steadily over the last five years while the crime rate has dropped – it was down 19 per cent from 2009 to 2010, the most recent year for which verified official statistics are available.

Violent crime has dropped 33 per cent, property crime is down 15 per cent and crime severity has decreased to 66.8 per cent (down from 82.5 per cent in 2009), continuing lower than both the provincial (83.5 per cent) and national (82.7 per cent) averages.

A community police service

Vital to the CBRPS success is its community- based approach to service delivery, a policing model for which it is well-known and respected. Based on a shared goal to build safe and healthy communities and a strong quality of life, the service works with the people it serves and values the important role community partners play in achieving a balance between enforcement and prevention.

The organization prides itself on forging strong partnerships with key players, including the provincial justice department, municipal police services, the court and public prosecution services and the Cape Breton health authority, school board, university and YMCA – just to name a few.

CBRPS community officers are at the core of the policing concept, working closely with citizens, not-for-profit agencies and partners across the CBRM. They educate service groups, business, students and seniors on crime prevention, set up Neighbourhood Watch Groups and manage several community- based programs.

Perhaps most importantly, they keep the lines of communication between residents and police open, building opportunities for involvement in designing and developing programs and services to keep communities safe. They work hand-in-hand with the Association for Safer Cape Communities (AFSCBC) – a diverse group of more than 60 community leaders who work collectively to assess and respond to issues in the interest of preventing crime and keeping communities safe. A CBRPS officer acts as the association’s executive director.

Together, the AFSCBC and CBRPS officers have mobilized many communities, helping them find opportunities to become involved in making their neighbourhoods safer, significantly reducing the need for police response and intervention.

Community projects in North Sydney, New Waterford, Glace Bay and Sydney Mines saw the groups approach residents with a questionnaire designed by Cape Breton University Community Studies Program students to identify safety concerns and priorities. Based on this information, they’re able to work with residents to come up with the most effective means of addressing those needs.

Only one year ago, a community scan of North Sydney showed many run-down vacant properties. Residents were seriously concerned about high crime rates, including vandalism, drug use and break and enters. The AFSCB and CBRM began improving properties and cleaning up neighbourhoods, while the CBRPS stepped up foot patrols and enforcement to address and prevent some of the more frequent crime among youth believed to have been connected to the vandalism. The AFSCB also opened a community office for residents to access programs and services. Today, North Sydney residents express amazement at the transformation they see in their community.

Community offices are the most evident success story of the projects, made possible through a partnership between the AFSCB, CBRM, Bell Aliant and the Cape Breton Island Housing Authority. They help officers engage and stay connected to residents, collaborating with them to address challenges and needs and create healthy opportunities – the community says what it needs and then helps to make it work.

Residents can access programs and services which, particularly for youth, help strengthen social skills, break down barriers and build trust and relationships with other individuals, including police. They receive coaching, mentoring and the guidance they need to help make positive life choices. Community offices also provide access to key services such as the Internet, that people would otherwise not have the opportunity to use.

First Nations policing

Community collaboration has also earned accolades in the Membertou First Nation, which chose the CBRPS as its police service in 2007.

The Mi’kmaq people were the first inhabitants of the CBRM, one of the oldest regions in Canada, and continue to be very important members of Cape Breton society. Today, the Membertou First Nation sits in the city of Sydney, at the centre of the CBRM’s community of communities. Home to more than 1,260 people, Membertou is one of five Mi’kmaq communities in Cape Breton and 13 in Nova Scotia.

It is named after Grand Chief Henri Membertou, who led a group of Mi’kmaq hunters and fishers during the late 15th and early 16th centuries in the area now known as the Annapolis Basin. Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Mi’kmaq, Membertou was a greatly respected and influential leader with a tremendous following. His baptism into the Roman Catholic Church inspired many Mi’kmaqs to convert to Christianity because it was seen as a symbolic gesture of the traits that remain central to the culture today – friendship, loyalty and respect.

These same values are at the heart of the policing philosophy that works so well for the CBRPS and Membertou. The service has built a collaborative and integrated approach to policing which focuses on the needs of the community; citizens show tremendous support for the work police do and remain dedicated to a continued partnership with the CBRPS. Officers have built a trusting relationship by getting to know residents and learning about the Mi’kmaq culture, traditions, smudging ceremonies and healing circles, religion and the role of community elders – all important to the Mi’kmaq way of life. Learning about these values and respecting their importance helps the service understand what works for the people and then adjust how it delivers services to best meet their needs.

CBRPS officers constantly interact with residents, working together to establish programs and initiatives – including a Neighbourhood Watch, Block Parents and the Membertou Pli’smenaq Boys and Girls Club – which residents are proud to own. Weekly spots on the local radio station provide updates on what police are doing and the service is represented at band council meetings.

The CBRPS has three First Nations officers who are active members of the Membertou community. Other officers have learned the Mi’kmaq language. The service has hired local residents for support staff in its Membertou office, which has an officer on duty 24/7 and has achieved some of the fastest response times in Canada. The band makes police feel like part of their community and a strong bond and significant level of trust allows officers to help resolve issues very efficiently and effectively.

Many Canadians know Membertou as home of the late Donald Marshall Junior, who had a profound impact on policing. It will again make history later this month when the CBRPS host the 107th annual CACP conference Aug. 19-23. For the first time, parts of the conference will take place on Aboriginal soil, within facilities on the Membertou First Nation, which inspired the conference theme. “One Nation, Many Peoples: the Full Circle of Policing in Canada” will explore the connection between policing and Aboriginal peoples and the challenges and opportunities all agencies face in recruitment, funding, governance, standards and trust.

With its collaborative and interactive approach to policing on a First Nation, the CBPRS will help police chiefs address the issues and find the answers to embrace our diversity and the contributions we all make to creating a strong, co-operative and collaborative circle of policing.

The way forward

The CBRPS’ strength is co-operation and collaboration. It understands that continued success depends upon public trust and confidence.

Committed to serving residents with the highest professional standards for public safety, it has laid out its goals and objectives in a new strategic plan to hold itself accountable to the job and people it serves.

The CBRPS will continue adapting to the changing world of policing, ensuring it keeps providing the top-notch, professional service residents expect and deserve. Technological advancements such as the installation of ROADS computers in police cars will ensure officers have the tools they need to do their jobs.

The service will focus on increasing training and mentorship opportunities to develop and coach younger officers for succession planning and will be guided by an intelligence-led model of policing – targeted, focused crime prevention based on trends in the community. A new criminal analyst is monitoring and analyzing crime trends to identify issues and prolific offenders, allowing the service to deploy resources according to where they’re needed.

“Serving with you – for you”

Mission

In partnership with the people, the Cape Breton Regional Police Service is committed to serve and protect our community. Vision The Cape Breton Regional Police Service fosters community leadership to ensure security and quality of life.

Values

The Cape Breton Regional Police Service believes in maintaining law and order, by: The highest professional standards and integrity; Being accountable and transparent; Working collaboratively and having a strong community spirit; Providing effective and efficient service; and Respecting diversity.

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