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Could be ‘couple of years’ to build up parliamentary policing, Ottawa police chief says

Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs says it could take “a couple of years” to build up a team of officers specifically dedicated to local policing duties in the Parliamentary Precinct in downtown Ottawa.

Stubbs made the comments Tuesday at a technical briefing for Ottawa city councillors regarding the police service’s new district policing model pilot project, which launches on Monday. The model breaks Ottawa into four districts — east, west, central and south — with the aim of being able to better manage smaller chunks of the city at any given time.

During a question and answer period with councillors, Stubbs suggested the police service is working on a fifth district.

“A fifth district that we’re going to build, the federal district … it’s going to take a couple of years to build up that team so that it is in place, they’re educated and trained about what goes on down there,” he said.

The idea would be that these officers would primarily respond to events and issues such as protests, which Stubbs said are becoming more frequent.

“Every year, we plan for Canada Day because that’s all hands on deck and we all know that, and that’ll continue — it comes every year — but there seems to be more and more of these major events that seem to be popping up every month,” he said. “I just don’t see it getting any better, in terms of that frequency.”

The 2024 federal budget included $50 million in federal funding to the Ottawa Police Service over the next five years to “enhance security” in the area around Parliament Hill, on Wellington Street and Sparks Street, and around the Justice and Confederation buildings.

Discussions around policing areas that are not the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Protective Service have been ongoing since the 2022 Freedom Convoy protest, which shut down Wellington Street and many other parts of downtown for three weeks. The Ottawa Police Service was in charge of policing nearly all areas where the protesters were encamped.

A “federal district” might also keep officers from other parts of the city, particularly rural areas, from having to go downtown to assist in policing duties, Stubbs suggested.

“There’s no doubt that sometimes in the rural communities, that they sometimes get tapped, but often it is in the downtown core,” he said. “But it will take time. A couple of years. We’ll have to build this up.”

Stubbs also mentioned that the police service is working to hire more than 400 new officers between now and 2026, but he said funding, finding recruits, and ensuring there are enough spaces at the Ontario Police College for those recruits are all challenges in reaching that goal.

Last year, the police force hired 87 new recruits, falling short of its goal of 107. Thirty-two new recruits were hired in the first three months of 2024.

–With files from CTV News Ottawa’s Josh Pringle

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