With 2016 well underway I’m reminded of how much work we still have ahead of us. While there is no question we are making some great progress – many municipalities continue to struggle with issues that often seem to cripple them or at least set them back. How can we help and are there solutions?
Of course we can help and there are certainly solutions. Firstly, if we are to create safe vibrant communities we need to stop making fear based decisions that are reactive. We need to involve community members and get them engaged directly instead of depending on our Police Services to solve many of our problems. Police are already burden with issues that are often best addressed by the very citizens they serve and protect. In most cases the Police don’t have the capacity to commit time and resources to prevention. Policing continues to be reactive, for the most part, and yet most cities feel the need to hire more and more Police Officers year after year. Even my own community continues to support this approach, Mayor and council going through painstaking budget talks to arrive at the same conclusion every year – more Police
Recently, Red Deer City Councillors approved the hiring of six more RCMP Officers for a total of 1.1 million in the 2016 operating budget. Apparently, “The public is a little bit unnerved” about the increase in crime. While the Superintendent says his Officers are overwhelmed and need some help, our Mayor is suggesting that “the main objective is to free up Officer time to engage in proactive policing and hopefully get ahead of the curve.” How many of these Police Officers does the general public think are actually going to be engaged in proactive community policing duties?
We need a paradigm shift and maybe a blast from the past. Let’s consider Peel’s Principles of Policing, particularly the one that states “To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.” During the same orchestrated budget process, the Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre was given $150,150.
Let’s face it, our Police Services are invaluable and for the most part do an incredible job for all of us. They are in our communities to Serve and Protect. Just ask Baltimore Police Officer Melvin Russell, he loves his job but recognizes we need reform. The Police need to respond to priority calls and in many cases are overwhelmed and need some help. So the big question is how can we help and as citizens how can we become more engaged in the prevention conversation. More importantly, how can we take action and share the workload which is incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence. We need more citizen engagement and collaboration between community stakeholders and more focus and funding for prevention based initiatives in our communities, not more Police.