A Lantzville man is concerned about police using his neighbourhood as a training area without warning residents beforehand.
Roger Smith, who lives at 7293 Rossiter Ave., said he came home May 25 about noon to find police running through his yard with a tracking dog.
“We literally came through the back door and I went to the front room and I looked out and I saw about six, seven, eight men running up the property with a dog,” Smith said.
His neighbour, who Smith said was shaken by the incident, went out and asked what was going on. One of the officers briefly explained it was training exercise and that he would return in few minutes.
Smith said the following evening he spoke with Cpl. Dean Muir, head of Nanaimo RCMP’s dog unit, who explained police try to give 30 minutes notice to residents before starting an exercise.
“I couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant conversation with him,” Smith said.
But he takes issue with 30 minutes notice.
“A family might have a barbecue or a kid’s party or a wedding and the police show up and say within 30 minutes we’ll be running through your property with dogs and everything,” Smith said.
Muir said the RCMP trains its dogs every Wednesday and uses the area around Rossiter Road regularly.
The neighbourhood offers a mix of large urban properties – many of which are not fenced – bordered by parks, wooded areas and sports grounds.
Muir said there was an oversight, in this case, by the officers who assumed no one was home when they were laying a track for the dog.
“Our policy here is – and it’s not a national policy – we don’t want to scare people, so we tend to knock on doors when we’re going through a yard, in particular, if we’re going through a fence or a gate,” Muir said. “Sometimes if it’s a large property and it’s a rural environment we’ll try our best to contact somebody, but if we can’t we’ll cross anyway.”
He said the dogs are always leashed and under a handler’s control
As for 30 minutes notice, no time is set in stone. It’s the approximate amount of time a trail laid down by a trainer is allowed to age before they let a dog track it, so police often make use of that time to contact residents.
Muir said the dog training must be as realistic as possible, which includes rapid response to a call, and the vast majority of homeowners support police training through their properties. Police avoid properties that are fenced, have no trespassing signs posted or where the property owner has refused permission.
“It’s rare that someone says no, but if they do, then by all means, we won’t use your land,” said Muir.
Muir said now that there has been a complaint, police might not use that area again.
“All we’re trying to do is find missing kids, missing people, and catch bad guys,” Muir said. “That’s the whole purpose of our training.”
Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said it is up to police on a minor training exercise to ensure anyone potentially affected is alerted to the exercise taking place. It is also the Nanaimo detachment’s policy to inform the public of major training exercises, often through the media, to avert fears or concerns.
Police called media to a recent emergency response team training in a simulated hostage-taking scenario at the Madill property on Labieux Road, but roughly two days after the training had started, had not informed neighbouring businesses of the exercise taking place.
“Seriously, we had no inquiries from the public on that,” O’Brien said. “The only inquiries were from members of the media and they were told on an individual basis and then, to alleviate any concerns, that’s why we brought the media to the scene.”