HALIFAX - When Annapolis County and the Town of Middleton contracted policing services from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, they got more than the frontline officers and cop cars – they got the weight of a federal force with the resources to go with it.
That’s a big deal, especially when something goes wrong in a big way.
Annapolis County Warden Timothy Habinski and a busload of municipal politicians and police advisory board members recently had the opportunity to see firsthand what Staff-Sgt. Dan MacGillivray knew all along – the RCMP is staffed, trained, and equipped to deal with almost any scenario. What people may not know is that when extra manpower and resources are brought in to deal with a major incident, it doesn’t cost the county or the town extra.
Habinski knew that, but it wasn’t until he and that busload of Annapolis County people toured RCMP headquarters in Halifax that the depth of training, range of services, amount of crime-fighting gear, and ability to respond really sunk in.
They saw night-vision goggles, walked inside a Faraday cage, watched a tech crime member extracting information from a cell phone used by a criminal, and got to heft diving gear, see improvised explosive devices, and talk to a sniper.
“It’s pretty impressive stuff,” said Habinski. He’s standing by the bus at the end of the daylong tour. “We rely upon police to help us through some of the most difficult, unexpected moments of our lives. And here it’s clear what they’re doing. They’re attempting to rehearse the things that we don’t even bother to anticipate. They rehearse it so that when a situation actually arises they tend to do the right thing.”
Besides the emphasis the RCMP places on training, Habinski was also impressed with how the people in that big new H-Division building in Halifax can respond literally within minutes to situations well outside of the city.
“It’s reassuring,” Habinski said. “It’s reassuring to know all those resources are a matter of a 25-minute helicopter flight away from the county in the case of an emergency. In a small municipality we don’t expect big things to go wrong, but we want the insurance of knowing that if something big ever did go wrong that people would be there to help fast – they’d be well equipped, they’d be well trained, they’d actually be in a position to help our constituents. At no cost.”
Dave Brown, chair of the police advisory board for Annapolis County, was part of the tour. Besides being a farmer, he’s a retired member of the RCMP.
“I guess the general public doesn’t realize what resources they have behind them,” he said. “When the municipality contracts policing for Annapolis County and pays for a certain amount of members, it comes with all these additional resources. It’s just unreal the support that’s there for the policing of the area.”
MacGillivray said he wanted to show and demonstrate to elected officials and PAB members that there is more to Annapolis District detachment than the RCMP officers in the cars that they see out in Annapolis County – that they have access to resources and specialized sections.
“It’s as simple as me as the district commander making a phone call,” MacGillivray said. “I can have those additional resources. Quite often, for homicides and serious crimes these people are also working in the background which the public would never know about. Would never know that our cell phones and electronics are sent in to the regional Tech Crime Unit for instance. It was good for them to understand and appreciate that.”
John Thompson from Middleton is a police advisory board member and remarked on the RCMP abilities. After visiting the Tech Crime Unit and the Water Recovery Unit, he was impressed with the ability of the divers to find such things as cell phones used in crime at the bottom of a body of water and send them to Tech Crimes to extract information from them.
Besides the Tech Crime and Under Water Recovery units, tour participants visited the Explosives Disposal Unit, the Emergency Response Team, and viewed a demonstration by the Police Service Dog Unit in quickly and accurately sniffing out drugs.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating and high-tech features was the Divisional Emergency Operations Centre, a situation-room setup that draws experts to a single location to receive information, draw upon people and resources, and allocate them to major incidents – anything from a forest fire racing towards a town to gunmen on the loose or bomb threats. And yes, there are wall-to-wall video monitors.
They also met with Assistant Commissioner Brian Brennan who welcomed them and spoke briefly about H-Division.
Also on the tour was Middleton PAB chair Dave McCoubrey, Middleton Councillor Gail Smith, Annapolis County Councillor Dianne LeBlanc, and Annapolis County PAB members Paul McGrath and Holly Meuse.
“It’s a very professional organization and it supports the public of the province and of the county,” said Brown. “It gives us more background information when we talk about policing, or we talk about why the police don’t do this or that. We now know how they’re trained, how they work, what resources they have if there’s a major incident, we have the confidence that they can do the right job and do it properly.”