Ottawa and Gatineau police, who in the past week stopped crossing the Ottawa River to conduct investigations, chase suspects and transport prisoners because of insurance and legal concerns, hope to be able to begin crossing the provincial border again tomorrow.

The Gatineau force ordered its officers to stop operating in Ottawa last week after Chief John Janusz received a legal opinion that they could be charged with criminal offences or be sued if things go seriously wrong.

Gatineau and Ottawa police officers have been operating in each other's cities for years, but Chief Janusz said four provincial governments recognized a year ago that municipal police officers don't have the legal authority to operate outside their home provinces.

Manitoba and Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick signed agreements in 2005 to swear in police officers who need to cross their provincial borders. Chief Janusz said Ottawa and Gatineau police decided last week not to operate in each other's provinces because there is no such agreement between Quebec and Ontario.

"The problem is that if a police officer from the province of Ontario crosses into Quebec or vice versa, the officer loses his legal status and becomes an ordinary citizen carrying a gun on his hip," Chief Janusz said yesterday. "I know that both communities have existed for 150 years and nobody made anything out of it when police officers crossed the provincial border.

"But things have changed since last July when the OPP and the Surete du Quebec reached an agreement designating officers who have to cross the border as special constables. Now the OPP, the Surete and the RCMP have the authority to operate in both provinces, but Gatineau and Ottawa don't."

Ottawa police Supt. Gilles Larochelle said Gatineau officers need to be sworn in as special constables in Ontario and Ottawa officers must become special constables in Quebec before the two forces can again operate on both sides of the interprovincial border.

"We have been striving for years to insure that Ottawa officers who cross into Quebec and Gatineau officers who cross into Ontario are given special constable status so they are covered for liability," Supt. Larochelle said. "If there is some sort of accident, we don't want to be held liable.

"We have approached the Ontario government to make sure that Gatineau constables get special status and they have approached the Quebec government on our behalf."

Supt. Larochelle said the police in both cities work on cases together and help each other when necessary. He said the police who will be sworn in in both provinces include tactical officers, drug investigators, surveillance teams and patrol officers who often need to cross the Ottawa River.

"We frequently go to Gatineau to transport prisoners, do surveillance or help them if they need assistance," Supt. Larochelle said. "Our tactical officers are heavily armed and trained so they can go there right away and help them until they get their own support."

The police in both cities hope that in future all officers will be sworn in as special constables in the neighbouring province, Supt. Larochelle said.

Supt. Larochelle said police chases across the border used to be common, but in recent years police have pursued suspects out of the province only in major crime cases.

This is cache, read story here