Seeking Solutions Should be Everyone’s Goal

City Hall Thunder BayTHUNDER BAY – The City of Thunder Bay is fortunate that we have skilled and well-trained front-line police officers. The case closure rate of the Thunder Bay Police Service is one that all law-abiding residents of our city can be proud of. In Thunder Bay, if one “does the crime” our officers will catch the bad guys.
In a community where there is great concern over crime, seeking solutions should be everyone’s goal.
In critical situations, TBPS officers respond quickly, and yet maintain their professionalism. All of that bodes to the police training that they have received. It speaks well of the officers, and the Chief of Police and his team of officers. Police training in Canada is second to none in the world, and in Thunder Bay we benefit from that level of training.
If there is critical commentaries to be made on our police service, it is not in how officers are trained. It is not in how the protocols of policing are set. It is on the issue of communications to the public remaining slower than they should be. Some critics of an earlier opinion piece commented it is “bashing” our police to make comments on the communications procedures. What those individuals might not understand is that one of the roles of media isn’t to serve as a cheerleader for people some in the local media who appear to have come to treat as their friend, rather than a public servant.
To me it is also in offering solutions. While some individuals might be happy with a policy that allows information to flow from the Police to the public via the media during business hours, it is my view that is not an acceptable situation, crime is not a nine-to-five operation, and neither is the Thunder Bay Police Service.
In other communities information are shared by police with the public in far more effective ways.
In Calgary for example the Calgary Police Service has set up a telephone call system that is free for citizens to enter their number, and then receive updates on situations in their neighbourhood. If there is an incident where police need the help of the public, then the public can be informed about the incident. There is, in Calgary the opportunity for seniors to get additional updates if they like.
Last week, there was an attempted robbery at 7PM at the Shopper’s Drug Mart on Red River Road. That story was reported on within an hour of the incident happening. Other media in our community got the information out to the public up to 36 hours later. That is not a slam to any other media outlet, it is simply what happened. That incident once again points out that the Thunder Bay Police Service could be doing a better job of getting information out to the public.
If there were a Police and Community Awareness Program (PCAP) in Thunder Bay, like Calgary has adopted, then people could have been in a better position to know what is happening in their neighbourhood.
Under the current system, residents in the neighbourhood, where the police along with the K-9 unit were combing the area seeking the suspect were uninformed that a person who had just attempted a robbery with a syringe was potentially in their area and could have been seeking refuge in one of their homes.
In Calgary, and other communities in Canada, that kind of incident would have been relayed over the telephone to the people in the area.
If Thunder Bay had such a system in place, it would allow greater engagement from the public to helping police. It is a basic premise of policing that goes right back to the formation of the first organized police services that the police need the public, as much as the public needs the police. All one has to do is Google for “Principles of Policing” to see how the process is supposed to work. Communications with the public by many police services in Canada demonstrate that there are better ways that could be adopted by the Thunder Bay Police Service.
The task is likely to fall to the new Chief of Police who will be in place by July, when Chief Herman ends his long and distingished career.
For several years, the issue of a telephone program, better communications from police, and others have been raised, not just in editorials on, but in direct communication with city councillors, and members of the civilian police services board. In a city where people are concerned with crime and violence, those are issues that one might think would be dealt with in a speedy and timely manner.
If you want to live in a safer and better community, those are the kinds of questions and suggestions that you might start asking your City Councillors as well.
In River Terrace, residents have been expressing concern over people from some of the wards of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre wandering through their neighbourhood. That issue is one where a telephone call-out system could be a real benefit. Despite this issue being raised for over a year, there has been no direct action yet. Residents in that neighbourhood have actually taken their concerns to the Ontario Municipal Board as they are fighting a decision by City Council to remove what they see as a critical buffer zone of trees from their neighbourhood.
Providing our community and our police with better tools so that we can all be safer should be a goal for all residents.
Those who are cheering for the status quo are, in my opinion simply allowing the problems which people are already concerned over to continue.
When Thunder Bay showed up in national rankings as a dangerous city, that ranking impedes efforts at both economic development and tourism in our city.
Thunder Bay can do better, much better. That goal, of being a better city, and being able to proudly hold Thunder Bay up as a shining example to the rest of Canada should be everyone’s goal.
Should that be seen as police bashing? Not in my book. What some in our city might take as positive solutions, others might see as a threat. Those who see positive ideas as a threat, or as police bashing, must have other agendas in place.
What those might be is really hard to figure out. The reality is that in a progressive and forward looking community like Thunder Bay, it is the new ideas, and visions which should take the field.
James Murray
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