BLOG: When it comes to police, whose jurisdiction is it anyway?

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The City of Ottawa is served by a confusing array of police forces. The general city is patrolled by Ottawa police. The highways by OPP. And on federal lands, such as Parliament Hill or anything owned by the National Capital Commission, it’s the RCMP (plus military police who congregate around military or National Defence buildings.)

To make matters more murky, all of these police forces can respond outside their boundaries. For example, Ottawa police may pull over speeders even on a provincial highway.

So for journalists, it can be hard to know who to reach out to when you need information about police activities.

A good example of this confusion happened last week when we wanted more info about a beaver that wandered onto Highway 417 on Tuesday.

We were curious about what became of the beaver and, forgetting about the OPP’s jurisdiction over the highway, emailed Ottawa police media relations asking whether officers shooed it away or if an agency picked it up.

Ottawa police spokesman Cst. Marc Soucy sent a quick reply reminding: “The 417 is OPP jurisdiction.”

But, after checking in with OPP, their spokesman Cst. Guy Prevost said in an email that “It could have been Ottawa Police who was there. When our officer showed up, the beaver was gone.”

Indeed, upon double-checking a photo taken by a passerby, the officer who was on the scene was obviously wearing an Ottawa Police Service uniform. OPS uniforms have “POLICE” written in white; OPP use yellow.

The potential for confusion is indicative when even police aren’t sure who’s on base, as it were.

We’re still waiting to hear back from Ottawa police about what information they can provide on the fate of the beaver.

If anyone else has beaver tails to share, we wood love to hear from you — drop us a line at feedback@ottawastart.com.

Devyn Barrie

Devyn Barrie is an editor for OttawaStart.com and writes for our sister site StittsvilleCentral.ca. He studies journalism at Algonquin College. Follow him on Twitter @DevynBarrieNews. E-mail: dbarrie@devyn.ca

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