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New chief of police says ‘social conditions’ important to consider in policing

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As Inspector Mark Mitchell gets set to become Kawartha Lakes Police Service’s newest chief, he says it’s important to consider the broad factors of community wellness when it comes to policing.

The Kawartha Lakes Police Services Board just announced that Mitchell will succeed current Chief John Hagarty in August, who is set to retire then.

“We have to have a broad look at the causes of crime,” Mitchell tells The Lindsay Advocate. “The social conditions that people experience are an important factor to consider.”

In choosing Mitchell, the board has hired from within the police service for the first time in 60 years.

Mitchell began his policing career with the Peel Regional Police in 1988 and joined Kawartha Lakes Police Service in 1990.

“I’ve been here almost my entire career,” he says. “I’m very connected with this community and I have an intimate knowledge of our (own) people” within the police ranks, he adds. There are 43 ‘sworn members’ from the officers’ ranks in Kawartha Lakes Police Service.

Mitchell has had a distinguished career working his way through the ranks, including the last 10 years as an inspector. In 2009-2010, he was seconded to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, International Peace Operations Branch, and was assigned to Kandahar, Afghanistan for a year.

“That was a transformative experience for me,” he says, and it was then he knew he wanted to work hard to one day become police chief in his community to try and make a difference.

Mitchell says from a community policing angle, one of the things the force is most proud of is the in-roads they have made in tackling mental health in the community from a collaborative perspective with community partners.

This includes using innovative new software called Health IM. It’s based on a lengthy questionnaire used for many years by health care professionals. The program was modified for police use and uses data entered by the officer to determine which of three risk categories a person in crisis could be — a threat to themselves, a threat to others or if they can take care of themselves.

“Mental health is an area where police have made great strides,” says Mitchell.

Police Services Board Chair Don Thomas says Mitchell has “very strong management skills and an exceptional proven leadership style.”

Kawartha Lakes Mayor and police board member, Andy Letham, says Mitchell’s appointment is “great news for the whole community.”

“We are lucky to have him,” says Letham.

As for current Chief John Hagarty, he says he and the Police Services Board have been committed to succession planning from the very beginning.

“One of my main reasons for leaving is that Mark Mitchell is ready. He’s going to be a fine chief and it is very rewarding and comforting for me to leave this police service in his very capable hands,” says Hagarty.

Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Lindsay Advocate. He is the author of 'Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World,' and is also on the communications team of the Basic Income Canada Network. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, Roderick has interviewed former Prime Ministers of Canada, Senators, and Mayors across Canada. He also wrote and published a series of books for youth about Canada's Prime Ministers as teens.

1 Comment

  1. I oppose community policing as it is too often misused to hurt innocent folks who criticize government corruption.

    My opposition is based on personal experience.

    Over ten years ago in another jurisdiction, a brave neighbour knocked on my door, handed me a police calling card, and told me the officer was going door to door asking people what their relationship was with me and telling them to avoid me. He was lying to them that I was violent and dangerous. I was a teacher/social worker. Those lies hurt both my security and my career.

    Community policing relies on building working relationships with members of the community. Too often, that means engaging neighbours to target individuals police and/or politicians have labelled as undesirables. That is what happened to me. I became the target of vicious neighbourhood harassment designed to force me to abandon my home. It included arson, assaults, death threats, break ins, and property theft. They poisoned my dog. The perpetrators cleansed me from the community with impunity bescause police, who initiated it, looked the other way.

    Why was I targeted? I gave information to the Ontario Human Rights Commission about a disability insurance scam. Demands were made of the disabled clients of an employability assessment program I coordinated to provide sexual favours or lose their disability pensions. The CEO and a Director subsequently lost their jobs.

    OPP told me maybe police refused to help me because “someone who doesn’t like you put falsehoods into your personal records”and I later found that was true. Someone had flagged me to CPIC as “V” for violent despite I had and still have no criminal record or history of violence. RCMP Commissioner Paulson eventually helped me remove that flag but for so long as it was in place, police turned a blind eye to targeted community harassment based on police misinformation to my community.

    Despite my repeated efforts to correct the wrong I experienced, the Crown to this day refuses to prosecute those responsible for targeting me with criminal harassment the worst of which saw me hit with a car at 80 km/hour and yes, badly hurting me.

    I strongly support police to enforce the law equally for all in our communities and I support police building positive relationships within neighbourhood but I oppose police paying one neighbour to inform on another who has been labelled undesirable but charged with no crime and I oppose misuse of police to enforce a social agenda that targets anyone who speaks up against community crime and corruption.

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