Ottawa Police Services Board approves plan for police hub in Rideau Centre
Published Oct. 23, 2023 8:08 p.m. ET
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The Ottawa Police Services Board has unanimously approved a plan to sign a lease agreement to set up what they’re calling a “neighbourhood operations centre” in the Rideau Centre.
The future storefront location in the Rideau Centre is located along Rideau Street at the intersection of William Street, and is directly adjacent to a principal access point to the Rideau Centre and across from the Rideau O-Train station.
The neighbourhood operations centre would be 2,629 square feet and provide a space for meetings for police, community partners and stakeholders, staff say.
Establishing a stronger police presence in the ByWard Market area was one of Mayor Mark Sutcliffe’s campaign promises. Over the summer, police said they were looking for a location where a “community resource centre” could be set up.
CF Rideau approached the city of Ottawa’s Corporate Real Estate Office to consider available space for the neighbourhood operations centre, according to the report, offering nearly free rent, just $2, but on the condition the Ottawa Police Service pays for operating costs. The cost of consideration for the first year of the lease including operating costs is $245,944.95 exclusive of HST. The five-year lease is set to begin Feb. 15, 2024.
“We want to be visible, we want a good location, accessible, so the public can see we’re here, and easy for our partners to utilize and obviously for our officers to be able to access. The location that we found fit the bill on all of that,” Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs said.
Stubbs said he’s heard from business owners, residents, and community organizations that have been calling for a greater police presence in the ByWard Market and downtown areas.
“We will use this location to meet with different organizations. We can get into a routine where we’ll be at a set location to meet about the conditions in the ByWard Market, and strategize and prioritize on what we, as a group, need to do.”
According to the report prepared for the board, the neighbourhood operations centre will not be publicly accessible when it first opens, but public access is being considered for future years.
Some public delegations who spoke at the Ottawa Police Services Board meeting, however, were opposed to expanding the police presence downtown.
“How many permanent supportive housing spaces at $40,000 per year could we create for people who are currently without a home with the lifecycle costs associated with the neighbourhood operations centre in the ByWard Market?” asked Justin Piché, Associate Professor in the Department of Criminology and Director of the Carceral Studies Research Collective at the University of Ottawa.
“How many community gardens valued at $12,000 a year to address food insecurity could we build with this money? How many harm reduction spaces at $14,500 per year or spaces for 35 days of drug treatment with a year of after-care at $19,000 could be funded with this money?”
Piché urged the board not to approve the lease agreement without having more information on the costs of retrofitting and operating the space, including the cost of the salaries of the police officers posted to the new hub.
“There are more cost-effective, humane and just ways to enhance community safety,” he said.
Sam Hersh, with Horizon Ottawa, also called on the board not to approve the plan.
“The $250,000 lease could have instead gone to housing a new social service agency in the Market,” he said. “What should have happened here, at least, was offering other agencies to apply to make proposals to use the space.”
Horizon Ottawa was among community groups that signed an open letter opposing the plan.
“Community members currently face social and racial profiling, increased surveillance, criminalization, displacement, as well as other barriers to accessing social and health services. A carceral response is shortsighted and part of a larger, failed system of punishment, ‘tough on crime’ agendas,” the letter, issued Monday, said.
“If the City is to be a safe and compassionate one, it must divert resources away from the police and towards proven evidence-based interventions that incorporate principles of Indigenization, human rights, harm reduction, social determinants of health and anti-oppression.”
Sutcliffe said last week that a new police operations centre in the Rideau Centre is “part of the solution” to address challenges in the ByWard Market area.
“This is right next to the ByWard Market and I think it will make a big difference. I’ve spoken with many residents and business owners and employees who work in the ByWard Market and they want to see solutions and I think this is part of the solution,” Sutcliffe said. “It’s not the solution on its own, but it’s part of the solution for the ByWard Market.”
Ottawa police plan to open a new neighbourhood operations centre in the Rideau Centre. (Josh Pringle/CTV News Ottawa)