Capital force marks 165th anniversary
By Danette Dooley
By Danette Dooley
1370 words – MR
Capital force marks 165th anniversary
by Danette Dooley
The Fredericton Police Force (FPF) is celebrating it’s 165th anniversary this year, though some argue the force has actually been around for 168 years.
Chief Leanne Fitch recently signed another contract and is enthusiastic about leading the organization over the next three years. Fitch has more than three decades of policing experience, serving one year as acting chief and seven as deputy chief before taking over the top job in her birth city in June 2013.
Fitch is the 13th FPF chief and the 13th female police chief in Canada’s history. She is also in the history book as the first and only female chief of a municipal police agency in Atlantic Canada.
Although the official date for the establishment of the FPF was June 27, 1851, retired member Gary Forward says the force was actually founded three years earlier. In his Master’s thesis,
“The discrepancy could reasonably be explained as the actual date of formation versus the incorporated date of establishment,” Forward wrote in his thesis.
The FPF is the second oldest municipal police agency in Canada, according to its Facebook page. Today the force has grown to 108 uniformed members.
The FPF has marked numerous milestones over the years. The city amalgamated with Nashawaaksis, Marysville, Silverwood and Barker’s Point in 1973, significantly increasing the size of the force. That’s the same year the FPF hired it’s first female officer, Shirley Jollimore.
Another milestone came ten years later when the force moved into its new headquarters (where it still operates) on Queen Street.
“We almost doubled the size of the police force during the 1970s. The trend and taste of policing started to change,” Fitch said.
Fredericton is broken down into five police zones, two on the north side and three on the south side.
During the 1980s, Fitch said, the chief at the time (Gordon Carlisle) introduced the force’s Emergency Response Team and other specialized services.
An intelligence-led organization, the force now operates 22 specialized teams, and has a full-time police officer dedicated solely to domestic/intimate partner violence coordination. This position works with other members and community partners to educate, prevent, and reduce domestic/intimate partner victimization and crime.
The force also works hard to help at-risk youth and is proud of its neighbour action team, the chief said.
With the new realities of policing – the force deals with everything from barking dogs to terrorist threats, says Fitch – the need for specialized officers and stronger partnerships within other law enforcement agencies and government and non-government entities is crucial.
“There will always be a need for generalists, patrol constables to do active response… but in this day and age policing is so much more complex… the days of the generalist police officer are dwindling,” says Fitch.
The FPF moved along with the rest of the country toward community policing in the mid-1980s. Members switched from the rapid response model to a community-based policing approach.
“The advent of community policing took hold but not as strongly as we would have liked,” Fitch said of the initial efforts.
Fitch’s research for her Master’s thesis (University of New Brunswick), titled
“It was attached to the patrol response unit and it was a certain section of people that were dedicated as community officers.”
All members – rank-and-file, management and civilian employees – now take a community-based approach to policing.
“This is an approach on how we treat people in our community and how open we are to developing good, strong partnerships for the best interest of public safety,” Fitch said.
Over the past decade, the chief said, the force has strengthened its efforts around employee training and development and career development support.
“For many years we had a fleet coordinator to take care of our vehicles but we’d never had a dedicated person to take care of our people in terms of career development support and training.”
While there was an officer assigned to that job, that person also was also the media liaison officer and the dual role was incongruent, Fitch said. “The duties weren’t well aligned and it was a fairly significant burden for one person.”
The force now has a dedicated employee development advisor.
Another great stride forward has been the province’s introduction of a mobile radio communication system for interoperability of law enforcement groups to be able to talk province-wide.
The system provides service to more than 3,400 users including first responders, enforcement officer and public service employees.
“I’m really pleased to say that the Fredericton Police Force is the first municipality on the new system.,” said Fitch. “All of our radios are fully encrypted and able to communicate across the province.”
The force has also introduced online reporting as part of its client self-service strategy. “We encourage people, when and where possible, to go online and report certain categories of crime.”
The force is prepared to handle any eventuality. An emergency medical team is ready to deploy with other specialized teams such as the underwater recovery, emergency response and explosives disposal.
Fredericton is one of only two Canadian municipalities which includes a First Nation Reserve. Saint Mary’s First Nation is located on the north side of the city and is policed by two constables.
“Our relationship has improved vastly over the years. We’ve developed a very strong and effective working relationship with St. Mary’s. It’s a unique policing relationship and one we’re very proud of. The people contribute greatly to the culture and the fabric of Fredericton.”
The force also has a great partnership with the local multicultural association.
Fitch said she is pleased with the force’s newly established senior management team, which includes Inspectors Scott Patterson, Kim Quartermain and Brian Ford and Deputy Chief Martin Gaudet.
Civilian manager Marilyn Abbott Charters oversees the force’s civilian staff in the newly created branch of operations and information.
Like many organizations throughout the country, the FPF has felt the crunch of a reduced work force due to a downturn in the economy. The push now is to do more with less, balancing the current public safety realities with the need to develop more efficient, creative and innovative ways of serving the community.
“We remain ever proud of our members, who work hard day and night to provide the best level of service to the community as possible,” noted Fitch.
The force is well on its way to redesigning the organization to meet the complexities of policing in the 21st century, said Fitch.
“Since 2012 the City of Fredericton has embarked on innovation and improvement exercises and the methodologies of Lean Six Sigma and the Fredericton Police Force has been actively engaged in training many of our staff in all areas including: certifications at green and black belt levels, waste walks, 5s improvements and staffing to demand projects all in an effort to provide top level policing during times of unprecedented austerity in our province.”
The Fredericton Police Force didn’t get its first chief until more than 50 years after it was founded. The province made a provision in the early 1900s for the city to appoint a police chief but the city refused to do so and left the highest rank as sergeant, which was held by Paul Phillips.
Phillips, who joined the force in 1883, more or less ran the force, the city notes on its web page, and was referred to in several photos and articles as the chief, even though the city council never permitted him to use the title. He retired in 1910 at the age of 67.
The first chief, John Hawthorne, was given the position in 1905 and stayed on for three years. The other chiefs were:
George H. Winters – 1908
John H. Mcollom – 1913-1916
George Findlay – 1917-1921
Nathaniel Jones – 1923-45
J. D. O’Connell – 1946-1954
Alfred Barker – 1955-1957
Bryce Neely – 1957- 1972
Ronald Goodyear – 1972-1976
Lionel Poirier – 1976-1980
Gordon Carlisle – 1980-2005
Barry MacKnight – 2005-2012
Leanne Fitch – 2013-present