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N.B. mayors call for change to Police Act

Click to play video: 'Rothesay and Quispamsis call for change in New Brunswick Police Act'
Rothesay and Quispamsis call for change in New Brunswick Police Act
The towns of Rothesay and Quispamsis are calling for changes to the provincial Police Act. They say it's taking too long to resolve complaints filed against an officer in their communities. As Tim Roszell reports, it's costing a lot of money – Nov 5, 2020

The towns of Rothesay and Quispamsis are calling for changes to the New Brunswick Police Act.

Nancy Grant and Gary Clark, the towns’ respective mayors, sent a joint letter to Premier Blaine Higgs last week, saying it’s taking too long and costing too much money to resolve complaints filed against an officer with the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force.

The letter, dated Oct. 30, said the communities have spent more than $1 million over four years dealing with alleged violations of the New Brunswick Police Act.

It does not identify the officer, but Clark confirmed it is Insp. Jeff Porter.

Read more: Suspended N.B. police officer to retire as hearing looms

A 31-year veteran of the KRPF, Porter has been suspended with pay since 2016 after a complaint was filed against him by a female civilian working under his supervision. An independent investigation accused Porter of 81 breaches of the Police Act, including sexual harassment and discreditable conduct. Three subsequent alleged offences were added later.

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The allegations have not been proven.

Clark said the cost for taxpayers continues to rise.

“This process has been going on far too long,” Clark said. “It takes way too long to come to a conclusion and four years is far too long for the people involved.”

Click to play video: 'Kennebecasis police to review sexual violence reports without charges laid'
Kennebecasis police to review sexual violence reports without charges laid

Clark said about half of the $1-million-plus price tag so far has been paying Porter’s salary during his four-year suspension, but it also covers legal fees and other costs.

Quispamsis is on the hook for about $600,000 while Rothesay has paid the rest.

Porter was scheduled to appear before the New Brunswick Police Commission in late October, but that hearing was moved to Dec. 31. KRPF Chief Wayne Gallant confirmed to Global News that Porter intends to retire at the end of 2020.

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In the letter, the towns said paying wages and benefits during a lengthy period of investigation and enquiry “seems, in our view, to be particularly offensive to the notion of ‘taxpayer fairness.'”

Grant said an updated Police Act needs to offer a quicker resolution to these types of situations.

“We are pleased with our police force,” Grant said. “We think they are progressive. Our communities feel safe. Again, it’s not about our police force, it’s about the process we’ve had to go through.”

Read more: Kennebecasis police to review sexual violence reports without charges laid

Public Safety Minister and Rothesay MLA Ted Flemming was copied on the letter. Higgs represents Quispamsis.

Grant said it was important to stress to both that this is a concern in their towns and around the province.

“They’re paying the cost,” Grant said of Higgs and Flemming. “We’re all paying the cost and we think there has to be a better way, a less costly way to resolve.”

“The Department of Public Safety intends to resume discussions with stakeholders such as the civic authorities and police associations in the near future about modernizing the Police Act, which will include review of issues such as disciplinary proceedings,” Coreen Enos, a communications officer with the department, told Global News in a statement late Thursday.

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“Unfortunately, due to Covid, resumption of these conversations were delayed.”

The Office of the Premier did not respond to Global News’ request for an interview.

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