December 1, 2021

Building more responsive approaches to policing

Guiding the province of Prince Edward Island towards a stronger and more equitable policing model began with a lot of listening.
Building more responsive approaches to policing

Across North America, police forces are facing increased scrutiny and pressure on multiple fronts. On the one hand they are grappling with the urgent need to address equity and systemic racism in policing and reassess how they respond to cases such as those involving mental health emergencies, plotting ways forward to ensure all citizens feel safe in their communities. But policing is also expensive. For many municipalities it is the single largest line item in the budget, and fiscal pressures are only likely to increase as we emerge out of the pandemic.

“Policing is obviously very complex and of significant interest to the public,” says Stephen Moore, a Security Strategy Lead at ADGA. “It is often controversial and attracts a lot of heat and light. Many police agencies are now doing a health check, asking themselves what they could be doing better.”

It’s a process that Moore and his ADGA colleagues have been working through with the police forces of Prince Edward Island, as part of a broad, intensive review of the province’s police services. ADGA has conducted similar reviews for municipal, provincial, and federal governments, including for cities in Ontario, the Prairies, and Eastern Canada, including a project with the town of Kensington in PEI.

“We were tasked to come in and have a comprehensive look at the current state of policing in PEI,” he says. “Look at what's working and what could be improved. Consult the public on their experiences and concerns. Examine efficiency and protective best practices and modern policing practices.” 

Like any other Canadian jurisdiction, PEI has a diversity of communities that interact with policing in different ways, including a large Indigenous population. A core part of ADGA’s mandate was to gather input and recommendations on how to improve equity in policing.

The province had commissioned a previous review of policing in 2017, but, says Moore, “a lot has changed in four years”: from growing police budgets to the demands made by movements like Black Lives Matter, and, of course, a pandemic.

Earlier this year, Moore and his colleagues, William Garrick and James Blackmore, began the task of exhaustively surveying the state of policing on the island.

In PEI, three cities—Charlottetown, Summerside, and Kensington— have their own police services. The rest of the province is policed by the RCMP, whose force has recently unionized. As a result, wages could go up by as much as 20 percent, costs that would be passed on to the province and municipalities.

“A cost increase in this climate is going to make any consumer dig deep,” says Moore. “When you're spending that much money on anything, the responsible thing is to have an objective, outside look at things. The larger municipalities are asking, ‘Should we continue to be served by the RCMP?’ Municipalities are wondering if there are other ways that policing could be more effective for what’s being spent.”

“And, while typically, PEI is one of the better places for less conflict, diversity is an area they specifically wanted addressed.”

So, Moore and his colleagues talked to people, a lot of people.

“We looked at a number of documents, at previous reviews, at news coverage, at best policing practices across Canada,” he says. “We conducted a public survey, to which we received 1,500 responses. We asked people to provide a rating on policing, and we also offered people the opportunity to provide text-based, free-flowing comments. We received about 800-900 of those.”

“We also interviewed about 80 people, including government representatives, representatives from the departments of justice and public safety, policing representatives. And we talked to representatives of certain groups about their interactions with police, such as education, mental health agencies, social agencies, minority groups, indigenous groups, new immigrants, people of colour.”

While ADGA already possesses deep expertise in police management and financing, ADGA was able to bring to the PEI engagement its local connections. Many on the company’s security team have direct experience with police operations in Atlantic Canada, as well as nationally and internationally.

Moore, who grew up in PEI, was formerly the Provost Marshal for the Canadian Armed Forces, overseeing almost 2,000 military police officers and reporting to the Vice-Chief of Defence Staff for the policing, security, and custodial needs of the Canadian Forces, both at home and abroad. Prior to that, he served as Commanding Officer of the Canadian Forces National Investigative Service, the branch of the military police that investigates all serious and sensitive offences pertaining to the Department of National Defence.

Overall, Moore was pleased with the amount of feedback they received, a level of participation that he thinks was aided by PEI’s size.

“To have that many people go on and jump through the survey, I think that's an excellent response. The size of the island is probably an advantage for this sort of thing. Everybody knows who everybody is, knows who the players are, understands the context of the review. It’s easier to spread the word.”

ADGA recently delivered the results of its work and recommendations to the provincial government, which is now reviewing the submission.

“We took all that and mashed it together,” says Moore. “We outlined where the strong points are, where the challenges are, and what the recommendations are. They will take that, go through the recommendations, figure out ballpark costing and decide what are the best immediate priorities for the island.”

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