KPS History

The Kentville Police Department: Historical Sketch 1887-2006

( This excerpt from the report KENTVILLE POLICE SERVICE: STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION by Lynda Clairmont and Anthony Thomson has been posted with the permission of Dr. Anthony Thompson Acadia University. )

From the appointment of Kentville’s first Police Chief, Robert Barry (1887) until late in Rupert Davis’ term as Chief (1894 – 1931) the Kentville Police Department was a one-man operation. In 1926, with the hiring of Constable John Brown, the department expanded to a two-person unit. Brown served as a constable for 5 years and upon Davis’s retirement became Chief. He was to hold that position for thirty five years. In contrast to the increased specialization of police work today, the early police officer or “guardian” in Kentville was responsible for a sweeping range of assignments that far exceeded his accountability for law enforcement. The “guardian” was charged with enforcing “the every day laws of common decency” (The Acadian, May, 1883). Supplementary assignments included janitorial tasks, serving as Health Inspector and Animal Control Officer and monitoring various town services, such as water and street cleaning (McGahan, 1988). These tasks were often tedious: “The duties of a policeman in a small town are numerous and not always of a more agreeable nature, and it is not to be expected that any man could give unbounded satisfaction” (The Acadian, July 22, 1898). The relatively quiet town of Kentville was, in the early part of the century, characterized as “a raucous and disorderly community” (McGahan, 1988, p. 88) disparagingly referred to as “The Devil’s Half Acre”. With 14 drinking establishments located within the town boundaries it is not difficult to understand the implications for “rowdyism”, vandalism and liquor related offenses. As McGahan (1988) indicated, “the vast majority of offenses involved crimes against property; crimes against the person were much less common” (p. 89). In 1966 Archibald Strong became Kentville’s Chief of Police and the former Chief, Brown, was retained on a part-time basis to service and repair the town’s parking meters (The Kentville Advertiser, December 7, 1966). At this time the Chairman of the Police and License Committee, H. L. Woodman, indicated that no formal advertising was done for the position of Chief of Police, but that a number of applicants from across Canada were interviewed (The Kentville Advertiser, November 24, 1966).

The Committee chose Archibald Strong, Chief of Police in Berwick, to replace Brown. A native of the nearby community of Canning, Strong had served in the Second World War. Upon his discharge, he became a police officer in Halifax. In 1953 he went to Clark’s Harbour as Chief, then to Liverpool as Deputy Chief and became Chief in Berwick in 1958. The rationale for hiring Strong was that “he had attended a number of police schools” and “Berwick’s very low crime rate was due to a large extent to police vigilance” (The Kentville Advertiser, September 22, 1966). Effective October 1, 1966 Constable A.W. Graves was appointed Deputy Chief and one year later succeeded Strong as Chief of Police in Kentville. By 1969 the Kentville force had six full-time members. On March 22, 1978, after thirteen years service, ten as Chief, “Lefty” Graves was fired by Town Council. The decision of Council, based on a recommendation from the Kentville Police Board, was unanimous. Council assured those present at a town meeting that the decision was reached “only after deep soul-searching by the Board and Council”. The only explanation for the dismissal was furnished in a statement prepared by Councillor Gordon Lowe, which stated the board had “concluded that Chief Graves was not capable of discharging the duties of Chief in an efficient manner” (Ibid). To “soften the blow”, and because of his “dedication” to the Town, Council offered Graves an alternate position with the town. Grave’s lawyer, Walter Newton, refused on his client’s behalf (The Chronicle Herald, March 24, 1978). Newton advised the Town that the case would be appealed to the Supreme Court if necessary. Indeed, the case was eventually heard by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court and was decided in favour of Graves. The court ruled unanimously that Graves was a Town employee and under the Labour Standards Code, the Town could not dismiss him without “just cause”. The court ruled against the clause in the Police Act which declared that the Chief served “at the pleasure of Council” (The Chronicle Herald, January 4, 1979). The stability of the Kentville force up until this time was dependent on the relationship between the Chief and the Town Council. In some cases, for example with Strong, the Chief’s tenure was brief. While Graves was Chief for ten years, he did not outlast conflict with municipal authorities. Following the Supreme Court decision on the Graves case, the Chief’s position became more secure, although this did not invariably result in stability. Another Chief would be removed from office, but only as the culmination of a controversial public inquiry.

Prior to the resolution of “Graves versus the Town of Kentville”, Allan McRae had been appointed Chief of the Kentville Police Department (1978 – 1984). By 1981 the Kentville Police Department had evolved into a 12-person force. An Animal Control Officer, a by-law enforcement officer and school crossing guards also fell under the auspices of the police department. With a population of 5,056 the per capita ratio of police to public was one police officer per 421 persons (Kentville Police Department Annual Report, 1981). This police/population ratio has altered modestly. At the same time, of 618 civilian offenses reported, 3% were violent crimes and 83% were liquor and property offenses (Ellis 1987, p. 119). The pattern of offenses in Kentville remained the same as it had under Chiefs Brown and Graves. Ellis (1987) discusses the “dark side” of policing in Kentville and other Canadian communities. Certainly this “dark side” was evident during Chief McRae’s term in office (1978 – 1984). The culmination of the “dark side” of the Kentville Police Department was the Nova Scotia Police Commission’s (N.S.P.C. Inquiry into approximately 30 complaints against the Kentville Police Department. The Inquiry was conducted between July, 1983 and February, 1984. Most of the complaints dealt with ineffective management, “racist remarks, assaults and entrapment” (Ellis 1987, p. 120). The N.S.P.C. found that the department suffered several shortcomings, not the least of which was poor leadership. A Commission-appointed doctor, J. Rafferty, described McRae as “a complex personality” and somewhat of a chameleon with non-functional communication skills. The Commission found that McRae was, knowledgeable in the law and duties of police officers, very strongly opinionated, very defensive when criticized, disloyal to his superiors, prone to blame his juniors for departmental problems and some of his shortcomings, with a tendency to strive to dominate any meeting he attends, who has difficulty in controlling his emotions, who is reluctant to discipline his officers, and, who has difficulty in realizing that he cannot manufacture the truth. (N.S.P.C Report of the Inquiry into the Kentville Police Department, 1984, p. 40)

The Commission found the Chief unfit for the job and in addition recommended the dismissal or demotion of other department personnel. However, the Commission noted: “There is a nucleus of policemen in the Town of Kentville to make up one of the better municipal police forces in the Province of Nova Scotia” (Ibid., p. 174). The N.S.P.C. also called for a closer, more cooperative working relationship between the local Police Commission, Town Council, the Chief of Police and the Police Department as a whole. According to the N.S.P.C., The team that makes up the Kentville Police Department — the Board, the Chief of Police, and the members of the force — must work together to ensure that ultimately the policing services in Kentville are provided by a loyal, dedicated group of police officers. (Ibid., p. 178) In the final analysis the Commission stated “forceful measures need to be taken to make improvements” (Ibid). Clearly under Chief McRae the police force was aloof from the community, certainly not the stereotypical, service-oriented, small town policing style referred to earlier. In the aftermath of the Kentville Inquiry a new Chief, Robert Innes, was hired. Innes’s mandate was to “turn the department around” and repair its damaged credibility. At the conclusion of his first year Innes optimistically reported: “The force is generally operating quite efficiently and effectively. Morale, after sinking to an expected low, appears to be on the upswing and will hopefully keep going in that direction” (Annual Report, 1985, p. 12). During his term (1985 – 1988) Innes worked vigorously to revamp the department. He began by upgrading equipment and training, instituting formal, equitable discipline and formalizing the department’s commitment to proactive policing. Innes appointed a Community Relations Officer in 1985 who in turn set in motion a series of community relations programs including Block Parents, Neighbourhood Watch, Operation Identification, property tagging, Seniors Taking Extra Precautions and bicycle safety rodeos. The Kentville Police Boys Club which was established at this time was actively supported by several department members. Chief Innes was also the driving force behind the development of a co-operative crime prevention unit consolidating the six municipal departments in the Valley. In 1985 Chief Innes stated: “All of the aforementioned programs are quite taxing in man hours on the force but I believe the benefits received are almost immeasurable” (Annual Report, 1985, p. 3).

His purpose was two-fold, encompassing both crime prevention and improved public relations. His motives were clearly demonstrated in the following excerpt: “They [community relations programs] hopefully have some effect on drug abuse and criminal activity within the community and certainly create better liaison with the citizens and their police force” (Ibid.). Unfortunately, Chief Innes died prior to the actualization of many of his objectives. By this time the department’s credibility had been significantly enhanced. Del Crowell was appointed as Kentville’s next Chief of Police in November 1988. He further modernized the department and explicitly adopted the perspective of community-based policing for Kentville. Specifically, he modified administrative and operational procedures, reorganized the filing and statistical systems, created new policy, evaluated equipment, manpower and training, completed a Rules & Regulations guide, furthered the completion of an on-site gym facility and formulated a Five-Year Plan for the department’s growth. Chief Crowell modified the department’s basic organization and rank structure, through promotion routines and a modest redeployment of manpower. The result was a modern police force emphasizing crime control and order maintenance within a community-based policing model. ( This excerpt from the report KENTVILLE POLICE SERVICE: STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION by Lynda Clairmont and Anthony Thomson has been posted with the permission of Dr. Anthony Thompson Acadia University for full report refer go to )

In 1994 due to improper activity Chief Crowell was fired and Deputy Chief Mark Mander was named acting Chief until 1997 when Brian MacLean was hired as Chief. Chief Maclean retired in 2003 and Deputy Chief Mark Mander was named the new Chief of Police. In May 2005 the police service moved to a new building on River Street in Kentville. The building was dedicated the Mayor Gary Pearl. Mayor Gary Pearl who died while in office exemplified service to the community and the philosophy of community based policing.