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

By Roderick Benns

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.

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