Known as the cradle of Confederation, Charlottetown has steadily grown in both size and stature over the years, developing a peaceful charm and grace seldom seen in comparably sized cities. The city’s residents can take credit for the charm and grace but the peacefulness is courtesy of the police.
The CPS is one of Canada’s oldest police departments, dating back to August 17, 1855, just four months after the community of 6,500 became a city. Six days after holding its first meeting, council decided to appoint six police officers, to be attached to the city’s five wards. Salary was set at 45 pounds per year and the constables were told to find their own “dress,” as long as it was satisfactory to the mayor and council. Perhaps the civic leaders were hard to please, since the city subsequently decided to pay for uniforms.
The first city marshall (chief) was Michael O’Hara. His officers patrolled the city’s plank sidewalks, which had a life expectancy of just three to four years and so were expensive to maintain, and four miles of streets.
City council passed its first bylaw governing motor vehicle traffic in 1922. Enforcement procedures were by sight and summons only, unless the officer felt the urge to give chase on foot. There wasn’t a lot of options; a horse and jigger was the department’s only vehicle at the time. Officers used it to take prisoners to the station lockup after brawls.
The police force had expanded to a chief, three sergeants and four constables by 1932. They were responsible for policing the city’s then 13,000 residents and 25 miles of streets. Despite the problems brought on by the Great Depression and widespread unemployment, the force was credited with keeping a lid on crime.
The RCMP began policing the island on May 1, 1932, taking over from the provincial police and customs and excise. The Mounties and city police would work together closely in the ensuing years and this strong bond continues to this day.
The city police “communication system” was rudimentary during the force’s early years The desk sergeant would turn on a light in front of the city hall station. Patrol officers were ordered to regularly go past the station and drop in to receive further instructions if the light was on.
The force went wireless in May, 1940, buying a Marconi radio transmitter for the station and receiver for the patrol car, greatly improving efficiency. The department paid for the new equipment by suspending uniform purchases for the 12 man force, which included eight constables. The Marconi system was replaced with a RCA two-way radio system in 1950.
The department gained prominence by hosting the annual convention of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in 1955, attracting officers and their wives from across Canada. From a tourist perspective, the convention was viewed as having far reaching effects for the whole community. The service, along with RCMP “L” Division, are once again co-hosting the CACP Conference this year, and expect some 800 delegates and companions to attend.
Charlottetown Police Services (CPS) has grown to 74 sworn and civilian members, headed by Chief A. Paul Smith, who joined in 1978, and deputy chiefs Richard Collins (administration) and newly appointed Gary McGuigan (operations).
The CPS is in the process of implementing recommendations resulting from a recent operational review. One of the changes was to appoint McGuigan to take over responsibility for all uniformed members.
The Greater Charlottetown area is now home to almost 60,000 people and is growing six times faster than the provincial average. The population to officer ratio is approximately 1 to 550 and immigrants make up some 4.4 per cent of the city’s residents.
The department has moved out of city hall, which it has called home for more than 140 years, to a newly renovated headquarters building.
The CPS continues its close co-operation with the RCMP through integrated policing operations, including the emergency response team, street crime and tactical units and JFO drug section.
Charles MacPherson, a youth intervention outreach worker, is on call 24/7 and has had an office at the CPS for the past seven years. He works closely with officers on files involving youth when they first become involved on the wrong side of the law, and has helped turn them around before they choose crime as a career. The CPS is also well known for its choir, originally formed in 1996 under the direction of Cst Gary Clow. Its Christmas concerts in seniors homes, begun the same year, became an annual tradition, delighting hundreds of Charlottetown seniors. The choir has also performed for royalty on two occasions, with the RCMP Musical Ride and at the National Memorial Service in Ottawa and the International Police Memorial in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Charlottetown Police Choir cut its inaugural CD in 2000, with all proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society. It performs throughout the year at municipal celebrations, funerals of fallen officers and family members and other ceremonies.
PEI’s population expands dramatically during the summer, when some one million tourists make their way to island shores. Many of these visitors find their way to Charlottetown. This year promises to be especially busy with thousands of people expected to attend the Canada Summer Games. Charlottetown will co-host the athletes village and the closing ceremonies.
The CPS hires police cadets and trained police officers from other parts of Canada each summer to deal with the influx. A side benefit – the extra help allows full-time members to take some vacation during the summer months.
Charlottetown Police Services new image reflects its goal – “Our city, our community, our responsibility.” A strategic plan outlines its path to the end of 2011 and a new statement of vision, mission and core values puts the focus clearly on keeping police services in tune with community needs. The aim is to refresh the department’s connections with the community.
One of the more visible changes is a new satellite office in downtown Charlottetown, staffed daily by civilian service members. A drop-in spot for officers working the downtown core, the new ‘Downtown Depot’ officially opened June 24 and has already helped the department connect with downtown businesses and residents. The service has divided the city into four policing zones to better serve the desires of residents and for statistical tracking purposes.
CPS members continue to be involved with their community at the grassroots level. Some officers enjoy working with young people on a regular basis and give of their time and talents in an effort to keep them engaged and discourage substance abuse. Several members are actively involved with DARE.
From its humble beginnings patrolling the mud streets of a little city of 6,500 people, the Charlottetown Police Service stands firm as a witness to over 154 years of change. From corner call lights to radio communication, the department has steadily progressed. Challenged through two world wars, depression, recession and changes in laws and people, the department has remained steadfast in its service to citizens and visitors alike.
h3. The Island way of life
As Canada’s smallest province, “the Island” is best known for its vivid colours, gently rolling landscape, active communities and is one of the safest places to live or visit in the country. P.E.I. is surrounded by miles of red sandstone cliffs and beautiful white sandy beaches.
As the capital city and cultural centre of the province, Charlottetown has evolved into a dynamic city without sacrificing its historic charm. It possesses a relaxed quality of life and unique character that defines it so well. In recent years, al fresco dining, waterfront development, outdoor festivals and an architectural integrity to new construction has all contributed to making the city more vibrant and interesting.
Visitors constantly mention the slower pace and quality of life. Without sacrificing the excitement and innovation of modern times, Charlottetown keeps one foot firmly planted in the past. Its architecture, friendliness, relaxed pace, familiarity and safety are all reminiscent of a gentler era. Coupled with the vibrancy and diversity of the present day, the city seeks to combine the best of both worlds.