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Towns of Stellarton and Westville each looking to hire their own police chiefs

STELLARTON, N.S. —

There’s new chief in town. Or there will be once the position currently held by retiring Stellarton police chief Don Hussher is filled.

Hussher, who has served as police chief for both Westville and Stellarton for the last eight years is retiring at the end of the year, and applications for the position posted on the Town of Stellarton website are already coming in.

“There’s people out there with a lot of experience who have expressed an interest, but we won’t know until all the applications come in just how many there are,” said Deputy Mayor Bryan Knight who sits on the Stellarton Police Commission.

For Knight, the interest already being expressed in the position is understandable given what Stellarton has to offer.

“It’s a gem, when you look at the job. There’s good pay, there’s no serious crime and they’ve got Westville and the RCMP for backup.”

The towns of Westville and Stellarton each have their own police departments, and Hussher’s role as chief for both departments is not typical.

“It’s a unique situation where you’re doing a balancing act between both towns, and he has done a great job,” said Knight who on June 10 brought forward the motion that Stellarton hire its own police chief again now that Hussher is retiring after 40 years of service.

“Right now, we’re repositioning and taking up from where we were eight years ago to realign the police force.”

The motion was passed three to one, with the only nay vote coming from Councilor Simon Lawand.

Lawand told council that the shared police chief role between the towns of Stellarton and Westville has a clear economic benefit.

“One would be that the cost of the police chief is shared,” Lawand told The News in a phone interview. “Instead of paying a full salary we’d only pay half. We get the half of the time, but nevertheless we’re paying half the cost.

The other benefit, Lawand says, would be in cooperation.

“I’ve been on the police commission in the past, and the police chief, and other officers were highly praising the cooperation that Stellarton and Westville had under one chief and how much help they’ve received from each other,” said Lawand. “So, with us having our own, I’m scared that that cooperation will be reduced for whatever reason. That is a risk and I wanted to highlight it.”

Shared Departments?

On June 10, Lawand brought up the option of shared departments between the towns as an option which he sees as being sensible for Stellarton and Westville, but also for the county as a whole.

“I’ve mentioned in the past, and I think there are other councilors who have mentioned this as well, the towns of Pictou County should have one police force,” Lawand said during the June 10 council meeting.

Apart from the RCMP, which provides police services to The Town of Pictou and assistance when needed to the other municipal departments, Westville, Stellarton and New Glasgow each have their own departments.

Trenton and New Glasgow are the only two with a joint policing agreement with New Glasgow Regional Police serving both towns.

“I believe that at the time the council of day was looking for a way to provide better policing service for a better price, and this is what they came up with,” said Trenton Mayor Shannon MacInnis.

The 2019 results are not available, but Financial Condition Indicators Results from 2017 breaking down municipal expenses show that, across the province, protective services make up a large portion of the budget. In 2017 Trenton’s expenses in this category made up 17 per cent, in Stellarton they were at 20.

“I think there was half million in savings,” MacInnis told The News. “And we still see that amount of savings in our budget now.”

He also spoke about the benefits of a smaller town of Trenton sharing protective services with the larger New Glasgow Regional Police Department.

“We have access to a lot more policing capabilities then when it was a private service,” said MacInnis. “Police dog, major crime unit, and lots of things you have access to that you didn’t have access to in your own department.”

Whether or not all four towns will come around to a shared department is one thing, but for now with both Westville and Stellarton hiring to replace Hussher, it looks like both towns will have their own police chiefs once again.

“The majority of the people we talk to, the commission and the majority of council want their own police chief,” said Knight. “Basically, because they want them to be in their own building and not shifting between two locations, two commissions and two councils.”

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