THUNDER BAY – The City of Thunder Bay has a tremendous opportunity over the coming weeks and months toward making our community a safer place with less crime. Credit for some of the efforts currently underway must go to Mayor Lynn Peterson and the current City Council who saw the process needed working on and formed the Crime Prevention Council. Some of the credit also falls to Mayor-Elect Keith Hobbs who first raised the alarm as to the conditions in our city.
In many ways much of the problem can be placed at the feet of the Chief of Police Robert Herman, and the Police Services Board which appears to either not fully understand their actual role, or has been unwilling to act in an effective manner. Commentary in other local media from former Chiefs of Police suggest that the understanding of the role of the Police Services Board in our community has not been understood. (Read: http://netnewsledger.com/?p=3000)
One of the opportunities right now is that there can be a new Police Services Board following the civic election.
The Crime Prevention Council can, under the guidance and leadership of Amy Siciliano.
Ms. Siciliano recently completed her PhD in Human Geography from the University of Toronto. Her research focused on crime and neighbourhood segregation, gang-related violence, crime prevention and harm reduction. She also holds a Master in Public Policy and Public Administration from Concordia University in Montreal.
Siciliano has already started the process of building a group of Thunder Bay residents into a force that will help to make our community safer.
For Thunder Bay, one of the opportunities will be found in the selection of a new Chief of Police with the announcement that Chief Robert Herman is retiring in July after 32 years with the department.
In choosing a new Chief of Police, Thunder Bay has the opportunity to find a person who can come into our city and see things with fresh eyes. Changes over time across the world of policing mean that even though Deputy Chief: J.P. Levesque is a fine police officer, having new eyes atop will allow the Thunder Bay Police Service to move forward.
There are several areas where change is needed. First and foremost is in the area of communications. The Thunder Bay Police Service has, for the past four years, remained trapped in the past in terms of how the department interacts with the public.
There is a massive need for change is in how the TBPS communicates with the public.
There should be an email gateway that allows the public to report incidents to the police. Like other communities, it is not a means of reporting urgent criminal activities, but submitting information on other lesser incidents. Such a move, already done in other Canadian and American cities would reduce the time-lag currently in place where officers are dispatched on minor incidents.
The Thunder Bay Police Service mustshould also improve how communications with the public are done in major incidents. There have been far too many times over the past several years where the Police have been extremely ineffective in this area. In most departments, such a consistent lack of effectiveness would result in the replacement of the personnel responsible.
It is likely that a new Chief will make the needed moves.
Having a new Chief of Police who will come in from outside the department will result in needed change in this key area of policing. Most likely, promoting from within will result in more of the same, as current policies and procedures will continue.
It will fall to the new Chief regardless of who is chosen to bring to Thunder Bay new ideas, a new willingness to implement better systems and programs.
Likely over the coming weeks and months, as the search for a new Chief of Police in Thunder Bay gets underway, some senior officers and officials might end up moving on as well. That is part of the opportunity that change brings for those officers and officials.
The overall change for Thunder Bay in terms of public safety and a falling crime rate will be improvements. It is a key component that is vital for the future.