The high cost of policing all of the expanded Woodstock community
May 18, 2023 By Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
May 18, 2023, Woodstock, N.B. – Expanding the Woodstock Police Force coverage beyond Ward 4, the former town limits, to all five wards will provide outlying areas with improved service, but at a high cost.
At the Woodstock council meeting on May 17, Mayor Trina Jones unveiled details from an expansive policing comparison and a proposed alternative model submitted to Justice and Public Safety Minister Kris Austin.
The comparison shows policing costs would more than double from over $3.2 million to more than $7.7 million for coverage on the expanded municipality. Jones added those numbers don’t include infrastructure costs to expand the existing police station, which is already too small for the current force.
The mayor explained expanding coverage from Ward 4 only to all five wards cannot be done in stages.
“It’s really all or nothing,” she said. “It’s something we’ll weigh heavily to see if residents are willing to pay that much.”
The model compared current 2023 staffing levels to projected staff needs if the force expands its role in 2025.
The number of police officers, for example, would jump from 19 to 42. It would also require seven additional staff positions which don’t currently exist. It projects three members to a Major Crime Unit, three court liaison members and an inspector.
Administrative full-time positions would jump from two to four, while the force would add an extra reader, bringing the total to two. The number of auxiliary police would double from three to six.
While the numbers in the alternative model provided by Chief Gary Forward and his staff estimated more than doubling the costs, it also indicates a significant increase in the level of service in the expanded town’s outlying regions currently served by the Western District RCMP.
The current WPF serves approximately 5,500 residents, with a coverage area of just under 15 square kilometres. The alternative model would see the force patrolling more than 500 square kilometres, serving a population of more than 12,300.
The force’s COP to POP ratio differs little between the two scenarios, meaning the number of officers per population. Currently, the force has one officer per 264 citizens. That only changes slightly to one per 273 under the new model.
Jones noted the COP to POP ratio is one of the most apparent indicators of a significant increase in the level of service.
She pointed out that the WPF currently has 19 officers serving only Ward 4, the former Woodstock town limits. During recent meetings with the RCMP, Jones said, they discovered the federal force has only 21 officers serving the entire Western Valley Regional Service Commission area, stretching from south of Meducitc and Canterbury to Plaster Rock in Victoria County.
Jones added no one with the RCMP would confirm if all 21 positions are currently filled.
The mayor explained the wards outside Ward 4 currently pay $1.5 million for RCMP coverage, noting those cost savings would reduce the gap between current and the expanded WPF coverage to $3 million.
Jones explained, however, the town will still have to pay for RCMP service in 2024 while covering the cost of WPF expansion to be ready for service in 2025.
When noting the RCMP costs, Director of Financial Services Kristin Pelkey pointed out the federal government subsidizes the federal force in addition to the approximately $1.5 million the town pays.
Coun. Norm Brown suggested if the federal government subsidizes RCMP coverage, it should do the same for the municipal force.
Mayor Jones said federal and provincial financial support for policing will be part of ongoing discussions. She added the town hopes to see financial help from Justice and Public Safety Department during changeover efforts in 2024, estimating costs could reach $6 million, not including RCMP costs.
Despite the high cost of policing, Jones said she and council members wouldn’t reduce service to save money. She explained officer safety and citizen service remain paramount.
“We’re not trying to slash and hack the budget,” Jones said.
Coun. Julie Calhoun-Williams noted the significant difference in the level of service between Woodstock police, which regularly patrol, and the RCMP, which responds only on an emergency basis.
Jones said the expanded Woodstock police model would continue its high-coverage patrols with a minimum of six cars on patrol at all times. She added the goal is to have nine vehicles on patrol.
The mayor explained the town and the province would have limited time to make their policing decisions, noting the RCMP requires a 12-month notice for discontinuing its service. Council must decide its plans this year, with the town force taking over full service by January 2025.
“This is a huge decision to make,” Jones said. “It’s one we won’t make without consultation.”
The following is the prepared policing comparison – proposed alternative model
Current (2023) compared to Alternative (2025)
2023: 14.96 sq. km
2025: 500+ sq. km
COP to POP Ration
2023: 1 per 264
2025: 1 per 273
Chief of Police
Major Crime Unit
2023: $3.2 million+
2025: $7.7 million+
– River Valley Sun
Print this page