Unique Challenges and Specialty Units
The nature of policing has changed since 1841, and the Kingston Police have kept pace with these changes. Prior to and during the nineteenth century, the security of the community and the maintenance of peace and order fell to the military for the most part. In times of emergency, the town depended on the military to assist in cases of riot, civil disorder, and major fires. However, as the force grew with the city, these duties were taken over by the professional police force.
Kingston is unique in Canada in that it is now and has been almost from the beginning a garrison town, a university town, and a penitentiary town. These institutions have in some respects served to shape the police force, as well as the community. Because of the demands placed on it by Kingston’s unique demography, the Kingston Police have often had to deal with major incidents not common in municipalities of comparable size. By way of example, on August 15, 1954, Kingston’s police were called out when 200 of the almost 1,000 inmates in Kingston Penitentiary rioted and set fire to the old prison. The fires resulted in the burning of the central dome, which later had to be replaced by a flat roof. On this occasion, the entire police force was called in to surround the prison to prevent a possible mass escape. On April 14, 1971, the inmates rioted again, took nine guards hostage, and released from the cells approximately 440 inmates, who took control of the prison cell blocks. This incident lasted four days and resulted in the murder of two inmates at the hands of the rioters and in the complete destruction of the interior of the cell-block area. When the inmates finally surrendered, Kingston Police detectives and identification staff were called in to conduct the resulting criminal investigations, a sizable task for a police force of approximately 92 officers. For the next seven months, four detectives (one-third of the total criminal investigation staff of the force) worked exclusively on this task. Over 500 interviews were conducted of the inmates alone. As a result of this investigation, 13 inmates were brought to trial. This trial was the largest criminal trial ever held in Canada, with all 13 inmates and their lawyers in one courtroom at the same time.
The existence of penitentiaries in the area has also impacted police operations in the general community. Beginning in the 1990s, increasing numbers of high-risk inmates began to be released into the city from local institutions. These inmates, many of whom are sexual predators, are those who have completed their sentences but are deemed to be at high risk to reoffend. This has meant an allocation of resources dedicated to high-risk offender management and to dangerous offender applications. In addition, the force has provided officers for secondment to the Eastern Region Repeat Offender Parole Enforcement Unit. Formed in 2002, this provincial unit works throughout eastern Ontario apprehending released inmates who have violated their parole.
The Emergency Response Unit was established in 1981, following the review of an incident the previous year in which a barricaded sniper had wounded two citizens and fired at approximately twelve vehicles before being apprehended. That same year the force had also responded to 25 other high-risk situations. In an address to unit trainees in February 1981, Chief Rice stressed the stringent training requirements, as well as the high level of physical and psychological fitness demanded, to ensure the unit’s primary objective, the protection of life and property.
The Kingston Police Canine Unit was created in the summer of 1997 to support the Patrol Division and the Emergency Response Unit. Constable Darren Keuhl and his partner, Razor, a male German shepherd, implemented the first Canine Unit for the Kingston Police, and a second canine team was added in 2009.
A part-time Mounted Unit commenced in June 1999, thanks to a donation from the Downtown Business Association and the generous provision of horses and equipment from Kingston Police Constables Brad and Deb Wicklam. The public relations benefit of the newly formed Mounted Unit became immediately apparent, for Constable Brad Wicklam and Monty, a Percheron thoroughbred cross, spent much of the first summer posing for pictures and meeting the public. However, soon other values were recognized: the visually large presence of horse and rider acted as a crime deterrent, and Monty’s height also allowed Brad to see into large gatherings. Brad and Monty were soon called upon to assist in missing person searches, crowd control during major public events, and general enforcement, while maintaining regular patrols and enforcement in parks and the downtown core. Upon Brad’s retirement, Constable Deb Wicklam took charge of the unit and assisted with succession planning for its continuation.
Technological advances have created a new environment for criminal activity and thus another field for the Kingston Police. In response, the force dedicated resources to the Provincial Strategy to combat Internet child exploitation and pursued ways to educate the public about the ever-increasing frauds generated electronically.
Conversely, advances in technology have also opened up a new medium for providing police service to the community. Online reporting for certain non-emergency crimes or safety concerns was made available in 2011. Initiated in 2005 and enhanced in June 2015, the Kingston Police online application process for police information checks earned the Municipal Information Systems Association Excellence in Municipal Systems Award in 2016.