The current police services agreement between the town of Berwick and Kings County was developed to create a more cost-effective structure for rural police resources in Western Kings County. Initiated late last fall and continuing to February 2013, the joint police project (JPP) brought about the closure of Berwick’s RCMP detachment and saw its officers transferred to the Kingston RCMP detachment, which now has a complement of 16 officers providing coverage in the western end of the county.
Members of the JPP are now tasked with evaluating the 18-month pilot. Before they begin to look at the effectiveness of this shared policing model, committee stakeholders would be wise to acknowledge that a good evaluation needs a well thought out plan.
Evaluation is an important tool that any organization can use to demonstrate its accountability, improve its performance and fulfill its organizational objectives. Just as a carpenter has many tools in his toolbox, evaluators also must have a variety of tools at their disposal. These may include questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, public meetings and observation.
Selecting the right evaluation method involves many factors. Some methods are better for gathering quantitative data, others for qualitative data. Some are better for particular audiences than others. Some methods gather richer, deeper data than others do.
There have been some bumps along the road for the initiative, but overall, project stakeholders - which include the town of Berwick, County of Kings, villages of Aylesford, Kingston, Greenwood, and the Kings District RMCP - seem satisfied with the progress of the agreement. Prevailing public perception has, however, not been on the side of the committee at all times. During the recent municipal election, the subject of policing proved to be a dominant issue for candidates.
This is not the first pilot project Berwick has entered into in order to build a better, less costly policing model. Others have not met with success, mainly because there was no established system of ongoing consultation between project stakeholders. Because problems that came up in the course of the project were not addressed in an effective or timely manner, the previous initiatives were not a success and discontinued.
That has clearly not been the case on this occasion. The fact the JPP committee has met every six weeks since the project began has not only enhanced the quality of the pilot, it may also prove to be one of its best overall evaluation tools. Minutes from the committee meetings show a willingness by the Kings District RCMP to find solutions for Berwick’s policing concerns. The minutes also reflect the desire of all stakeholders to make the agreement work for county and town residents.
Whatever evaluation methods are chosen by the committee, they should communicate the progress, success, and effectiveness of this shared project, which has so far proven to be a model of cooperation among communities in Western Kings.