Cobourg Police announce success at report-card time

By Cecilia Nasmith

The Cobourg Police Services Board hosted a town-hall meeting as part of their October meeting to announce a successful conclusion to the Cobourg Police Service 2014-2017 business plan.

Having completed a 2019-2021 business plan, members of the force conducted a report-card session on their previous plan to explain why they deserved top grades.

Chief Kai Liu began by listing the five core functions required under the Police Act – crime prevention, law enforcement, assistance to victims of crime, maintenance of public order and emergency response. The business plan serves as a road map to reaching those ideals and clarifies their goals in doing so.

One of their outstanding successes has been the business-services division that was new when Liu joined the force in 2012. This department performs the criminal-background checks required for so many of today's jobs and volunteer activities, and collects the fees.

In 2012, he said, they brought in $490,000. In 2017, the service brought in $2.2-million. It is on track to bring in $3-million in 2018 and perhaps reach $5-million in 2020.

They have recently made a $1.6-million investment in this service by moving it to the new Venture 13 building, providing new software and an ergonomic work space that will increase productivity. Two consultants have been hired to conduct a marketing analysis in helping them develop a business plan specific to business services.

“Under the leadership of Gina Wilson and her team of employees, we have been very fortunate in developing that service to what it is today,” the chief said.

Deputy Chief Paul VandeGraaf discussed revisions to their deployment model, redefining the role of patrol constables, enhancing the role of their 20 special constables and reviving their auxiliary to create a team of 11.

The night after the shooting at Northumberland Hills Hospital last year, VandeGraaf said, special constables were on patrol, as they often conduct patrols after a major crime. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to town last week, 12 of them worked on security with the RCMP.

Since May of this year, auxiliary officers have worked about 2,500 hours or roughly the work of 1.2 full-time-equivalent officers that (given the fact that many of these hours might have been worked on an overtime basis) would have cost taxpayers almost $112,000.

Over the summer, at least one auxiliary officer was present every day at the trailer they have at the beach. This is in line with their goal of increasing police visibility, which they also do in such programs as their Youth in Policing Initiative, Breakfast Club (in which officers visit schools to have breakfast with the children), and (thanks to co-sponsorship from the Cobourg Legion) their new pipe band. As well, many of them do community service on their own, such as bingo nights and coaching sports.

They can also be seen carrying out such crime-reduction strategies as RIDE checks and STEP – Systematic Traffic Enforcement Program, which focuses on such issues as seat-belt infractions and distracted driving. Through the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design initiative, they will visit your home or place of business to suggest changes that might make them safer.

Special constables used to act as court security officers, and they still do. But they now perform such additional tasks as working reception, taking reports and entering data, working with vulnerable people spending time in the lobby and property management.

“This is very, very, very enhanced work and our goal is, if one of these members want to become a police officer, we will do everything in our power to get them employed,” VandeGraaf said.

The deputy chief displayed a chart illustrating Ontario's Mobilization and Engagement Model of Community Policing, a circle divided into four quadrants of different focus. For good reason, he said, the quadrant dealing with Enforcement and Crime Suppression is coloured red. Spend too much time in the red, he said, and you burn out. That's why it's important to spend enough time in the other quadrants, such as Community Engagement and Liaison.

Speaking of liaisons, Cobourg Police Service has forged partnerships that benefit the broader community, such as their work with Cornerstone Family Violence Prevention Centre in enhancing their work on domestic violence.

“For about one-fifth of the cost of an officer, we have the experts,” VandeGraaf said.

Cornerstone also visits local high schools with the Stand Up Stay Strong program for students who might encounter risky situations.

Rebound Youth Services has launched the Cobourg Under 12 Intersectoral Partnership, which identifies young people who are on a path to criminality. It applies a wrap-around approach with other partners such as YMCA Northumberland and the school board.

“Instead of responding to a multitude of thefts from cars and chasing the same four kids, we can change things,” he said.

One officer is dedicated to the work of the mental-health response team that has social workers going proactively into the community to work with those experiencing issues.

In recent months, they became a partner in the fight against homelessness by making their lobby available as an emergency warming and cooling centre, complete with washroom and shower. In the year between June 2017 and June 2018, males used the facility 185 times and female used it 253 times, these individuals ranging in age from 16 to 85.

Hybrid deployment is far more responsive and far more effective, he noted, but it's nothing new. It has been common practice in Britain for years.

“The evidence is out there. The empirical data is out there. It's growing across Ontario, and it's meeting with resistance from traditionalists both in and outside of the police culture,” he said.

“Some people prefer not to be engaged in their own protection – just call 911 and have somebody come. But through time, energy and experience, we will be able to move this along.”

Internal policies also contribute to their success. They regularly spend at least double the amount budgeted for continuing training and education and have instituted initiatives that recognize outstanding attendance.

Chief Liu said that all this is accomplished on a budget that rises slower than the cost of living. The budget went up 1.3% in 2015, 1.65% in 2016 and 0.55% in 2017.

The session concluded with Staff Sgt. Brent Allison offering remarks and a video presentation on a recent knowledge exchange on which he represented the Cobourg Police Service in accompanying representatives of Cornerstone and Horizons of Friendship with a visit to Guatemala with a view to Indigenous women's issues.

Allison announced that it is a true exchange, with two Indigenous Maya visitors expected next month. They will be honoured guests at a lunch-and-learn session at Victoria Hall Nov. 20 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and members of the public are welcome.