Moving Forward Thunder Bay in a Positive Way

Nation steps up and sits behind the wheel of the Caterpillar Mining Vehicle at 2017 Mining Day in Thunder Bay
Our Future depends on the directions we choose to take.

Which Direction Do We Want Our Thunder Bay To Go?

THUNDER BAY – It has been a busy week for Thunder Bay Police Service officers and staff. There have been two homicides, several drug arrests and seizures, along with assaults, robberies, and missing persons.

In recent years and months, Thunder Bay Police Service has come under fire following reports of systemic racism in the service and at the police services board.

Thunder Bay Police face growing issues, including a growing gang problem, the issues they deal with everyday stemming from the opioid crisis, and the addiction issues in our community.

It is very easy to be a critic of the Thunder Bay Police Service. That easy path, however, will not lead to solutions that make a positive difference in our city.

There are some who feel that response times for some calls are too long. Yet this week police were able to make an arrest in a robbery call within eight minutes. Both of the homicides this week have suspects in custody as well.

In terms of the level of staffing a spokesperson for TBPS states, “The Thunder Bay Police Service is mandated to respond to and prioritize its calls for service. We have policies in place that allow us to adjust our manpower to meet the adapting needs of the community. Multiple complex investigations taking place concurrently can be very taxing on members, and we recognize our frontline officers are working under a great deal of pressure to respond to these community needs. This week has been an example of just how challenging that can be. Despite these challenges, we never lose sight of the fact we are doing everything we can to meet the community expectations for safety.”

Some critics seem to feel that Thunder Bay Police do not issue press releases as fast as they could. One of the factors in this is that police are in a constant balancing act to keep the public informed, and to protect the integrity of ongoing investigations.

Perhaps as an example, the Winnipeg Police Service was a part of a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement effort Operation Riverbank that resulted in a major drug bust. (http://www.netnewsledger.com/2018/11/01/project-riverbank-inter-provincial-illicit-drug-network-dismantled/)

This operation was reported on a week after it started. The goal was arresting the people involved in the criminal operation. It took time. This allowed police to interview suspects, witnesses and put the final touches to the investigation.

In Thunder Bay in recent days, police have made a number of drug seizures, including a massive fentanyl seizure that is the biggest in the history of the service.

That followed quickly with a number of other media releases on additional drug-related arrests and seizures. Police are not reporting any connections between these operations, that is a part of the needed work that police must do in their efforts to make the community safer.

Last year, Thunder Bay Police released a report on their ongoing efforts to make our riverbanks safer. Operation Floodway identified the areas in the city where the greatest number of incidents happened along our river and creeks.

Police in that report state, “Of the study areas, the Neebing/McIntyre Floodway is the most frequently occupied, followed by McVicar Creek, Lower Neebing River, Lake Superior, and Kaministiqua River. Current River was not identified as part of the study area, however, there was an incident reported relevant to this project. Two-thirds or 67% of all project-related incidents occurred at the Neebing/McIntyre Floodway.

“The most commonly occupied areas along the Neebing/McIntyre Floodway were near the Thunder Centre, McIntyre Centre, Silver City, and Balmoral Street in descending order. It should be noted that there are several bridges crossing the floodway near these locations and unlawful users of the space are commonly found on, under, or near bridges. Furthermore, beer, spirits, and other alcohol-based intoxicants are highly accessible in this area due to the close proximity of the LCBO, Beer Store, Shopper’s Drug Mart, and Dollarama.”

“Of all 2017 project-related incidents, there were 116 incidents of probable life-saving intervention of adults, 24 incidents of possible life-saving intervention of adults, 16 incidents involving persons 18 years or younger, and one incident of probable life-saving intervention of persons 18 years or younger.

“Probable and possible life-saving interventions are subjective in most cases. In cases considered to fit these criteria, persons involved were extremely intoxicated and intervention by first responders very likely resulted in saving lives (e.g., unconscious in close proximity to water, transportation to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, water rescues, etc.).

There were five sudden deaths tracked by this project.”

Often in reporting the news, many of these water rescues are not made public by Thunder Bay Police. Looking at the number, perhaps the reality is the good work needs more reporting, but it is more likely that the deaths are what makes the news more often.

Thunder Bay Police Service, at all levels, from the Police Services Board, to the Executive, to the frontline officers and the staff have taken a proverbial beating in recent years. There have been a lot of accusations, and a lot of reports coming out that have pointed out numerous shortfalls in the levels of training, the levels of how investigations are made.

As seen this week in how a homicide scene was protected, the TBPS have stepped up their game big time.

Those shortfalls are now, as a result of the OCPC and OIPRD reports now a matter of public record. There are new people at the Police Services Board, all of whom are receiving additional training to do their jobs in a better way.

There is increased funding for the Thunder Bay Police Service to improve their efforts to make our community safer.

It would certainly be far easier to sit as a critic, but that role won’t really help make a real difference in our community to make it a better place.

In many cases, the role of the Police is going to be to rebuild what the OIPRD report “Broken Trust” with the Indigenous community. That is a huge task, given the number of people who have felt impacted by past issues and problems.

Shifting the paradigm is going to really be an effort that requires all of us in Thunder Bay to take our roles. From all sides we have choices to make, we can start learning to live, work, and succeed together, or we can suffer the impact that indifference, inaction, and racism have already tainted our city’s reputation.

Frankly put, the Thunder Bay Police are taking a lot of steps. The question is are how many in Thunder Bay are ready to step up and follow that lead?

James Murray

Thunder Bay Police Floodway Report

Thunder Bay Police Floodway… by on Scribd