City coun­cil given up­date on re­aligned Lethbridge po­lice beats

Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Melissa Vil­leneuve LETHBRIDGE HER­ALD

The Lethbridge Po­lice Ser­vice has been op­er­at­ing within four newly re­zoned po­lice beats for the past month. The or­ga­ni­za­tion is now pre­par­ing to take its next step in Jan­uary — as­signed of­fi­cer beats.

But be­fore do­ing that, Lethbridge Po­lice Chief Rob Davis and Po­lice Com­mis­sion chair Lee Cut­forth wanted to pro­vide an up­date to city coun­cil on the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s op­er­a­tional strate­gies and di­rec­tion go­ing for­ward.

The plan was ear­lier shared at last month’s Po­lice Com­mis­sion meet­ing. Davis said he brought it for­ward to coun­cil af­ter en­cour­age­ment from Coun. Joe Mauro.

“He loved the pre­sen­ta­tion and felt it was re­ally im­por­tant be­cause we have a new coun­cil with two brand new mem­bers,” said Davis. “Coun. Mauro loved the phi­los­o­phy. He talked about how when he was child grow­ing up in Lethbridge and into adult­hood, you knew who your po­lice of­fi­cers were.”

The LPS re­cently com­pleted two pro­cesses to re­view and en­hance oper­a­tions, in­clud­ing an ex­er­cise with a crim­i­nal jus­tice man­age­ment con­sul­tant which iden­ti­fied a need for in­creased ef­fi­cien­cies. They have up­dated the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s mis­sion, vi­sion and val­ues, and re­aligned pa­trol zones based on call vol­ume.

“Tra­di­tion­ally we’ve had six pa­trol beats in the city and we would be re­spond­ing to calls as they came in. The end re­sult is you wind up with call swarm­ing, so of­fi­cers hav­ing to go wher­ever to ad­dress calls for ser­vice and in do­ing so, some­times we’d be leav­ing beats empty,” said Davis.

The new for­mat has al­ready been in ef­fect since Oct. 23. Be­gin­ning in Jan­uary, of­fi­cers will be as­signed on a more per­ma­nent ba­sis to a par­tic­u­lar beat. Of­fi­cers will re­main as­signed to their beats for a min­i­mum of two years in a strat­egy to in­crease ef­fi­ciency and be­come fa­mil­iar with the cit­i­zens, is­sues and con­cerns in those zones.

“We want them to stay there for a min­i­mum of two years so they ac­tu­ally get to know the com­mu­nity — get to know the cit­i­zens, get to know the busi­nesses that are open 24 hours, get to know who that news­pa­per de­liv­ery per­son is at 3 a.m., get to know all the nu­ances of that ge­o­graph­i­cal area,” said Davis. “Polic­ing is one of those ca­reers where you were trained to ob­serve. And when you see some­thing that’s out of the norm, you know it’s out of the norm. But if you’re al­ways fly­ing around the city with­out a spe­cific area it’s hard to de­velop that.”

The idea is to “own your zone” he ex­plained. It will al­low of­fi­cers to build re­la­tion­ships, in­crease pub­lic en­gage­ment and work with neigh­bour­hood as­so­ci­a­tions to add an­other layer of “eyes and ears” on the ground.

Of­fi­cers would gen­er­ally stay within their as­signed zone un­less there was a se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tion re­quir­ing back up.

It’s im­por­tant for the pub­lic to know who their of­fi­cers are, said Davis. And so far, the feedback he’s re­ceived from cit­i­zens has been pos­i­tive.

“When you talk to peo­ple that have been in Lethbridge a long time, they re­mem­ber when they knew who the po­lice of­fi­cer was in their neigh­bour­hood. Again, when I talked to peo­ple com­ing from dif­fer­ent com­mu­nity groups, they liked the idea of hav­ing some con­sis­tency in who the po­lice of­fi­cers are that they’re go­ing to be deal­ing with.”

The num­ber of of­fi­cers will go from 15 per shift per team to 18, short of the 21 rec­om­mended in the con­sul­tant’s re­port. Davis said they will re­assess the team num­bers af­ter three months.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions are con­tin­u­ing with the Lethbridge Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion over the pos­si­bil­ity of stag­gered start times to deal with the flow of calls. The ma­jor­ity of calls come in be­tween 2-11 p.m., Davis ex­plained in a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view.

Dur­ing an ear­lier news con­fer­ence, Davis said the in­de­pen­dent con­sul­tant’s re­port and rec­om­men­da­tions would be made avail­able to the pub­lic af­ter be­ing pre­sented to city coun­cil. When asked why it still hasn’t been, Davis replied it was due to time con­straints within the pre­sen­ta­tion (which is lim­ited to five min­utes).

“We’re not there yet,” he said, not­ing he wasn’t sure when it would be re­leased.

The plan is still a work in progress, but it starts with those four zones and hav­ing of­fi­cers get to know them, said Davis

“Make that the mea­sure of suc­cess — pre­vent­ing crime in your neigh­bour­hood or if a crime hap­pens, hav­ing the con­nec­tions to solve it quickly.”

Fol­low @Melis­saVHer­ald on Twit­ter

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