In what is being dubbed as a 'challenging' year, the Estevan Police Service saw a dramatic rise in their activity level thanks the dynamics of the economy and other such factors.
According to Police Chief Paul Ladouceur, when the economy goes south and money is tight, domestic disturbances can increase along with theft, drinking and drug use.
"Our calls for service in 2017 were up to 10,647, which is quite a drastic increase from years prior. When we look at that, it's telling of the times, without a doubt. Just to put it in perspective, in 2016 our total calls for service were 7,671."
That said, he also noted that the total entails all activities conducted by officers, including community initiatives, so the time spent on the variety of calls and engagements can be tracked. EPS officers often see a lot of calls that aren't even related to normal police duties, stretching out and handling situations such as mental health and addiction issues.
Ladouceur observed that the term, 'cost of policing', is molding into the 'cost of safety and well-being'. He expressed that he'd like to see the balance return to where those needed a specific service can get it from where it can be best provided, whether policing or other sources such as counselling.
"Police officers are so many things to so many people. They're social workers, law enforcers, guidance counselors... - Police Chief Paul Ladouceur
"Police officers are so many things to so many people. They're social workers, law enforcers, guidance counselors, and the reality is that it takes several services to deal with social issues within our community."
Some of the highlights outlined by the Chief of Police from the year included...
- The introduction of a K9 unit back into the force. Max and his handler, Constable Paul Chabot, will work to fill the shoes - or whatever dogs wear - of Harvey, who was the previous four legged member along with then-Constable, now-Sergeant Tyler McMillan.
- A number of internal policy updates, keeping up and keeping current with the times among the members to stay efficient.
- A variety of community initiatives to engage with residents..... "Obviously 'Youth Nights' were the big ones for us. It was very well received with kids coming out, and that's something that we're going to evaluate to see if we are able to continue. It's a great way to engage with local youth in a positive atmosphere," said Ladouceur. Others included the Canada 150 celebrations, a Bicycle Safety Rodeo and a 'name the k9' program, through which the dog's moniker was selected.
- Continuing to take a good look at impaired driving. The Chief made waves in January of 2017 when he suggested permanently seizing the vehicles of repeat offenders, and they ramped up the number of high-visibility check stops throughout the city..... "This province has one of the highest impaired driving statistics in the country, so it's certainly a concern for us."
- Evaluation of the Drug and Intelligence Unit's success since it's establishment in 2015..... "We found that that unit had laid 197 Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act charges since it's inception, and seized over $200,000 in cash, seized more than 6 vehicles worth an estimated value of about $230,000, and took 15 firearms off our streets that were in the possession of criminals," Ladouceur shared, noting that the unit will stick around for awhile due to it's demand.
- Preparation for major incident response..... "This is something that doesn't happen all the time in this city, but we have to be prepared when and if it does, so that was a part of the formation of the Containment Team (the Containment and Warrant Entry Team, or CWET), that we created a few years back. We sent various officers on incident command training, and we're sending officers on hostage negotiation courses as well. This is something that you never hope you have to use, but I always say that it's like having insurance. This year, in 2018, we'll actually be doing some scenarios with those teams, just to see how we would respond in a major incident and to be able to kind of grade ourselves on that, then debrief and look at ways of improving."
With all that in the books for 2017, the load doesn't look to be any lighter in the year ahead. They have a few objectives for 2018, including...
- Analysis of how sexual assault investigations are conducted..... "There's been a lot of discussion nationally on sexual assault investigations by police services and so forth, so we're continuing to review how we proceed with these."
- Looking deeper at domestic violence..... "It often goes unreported to local police. The numbers of domestic violence cases that were being reported compared to the number that we're hearing, through social services or counselling services, don't match. What we're seeing is a discrepancy in the numbers of people going to seek help in relation to domestic violence as opposed to the people that are actually coming to the police for assistance. We want to strengthen those relationships with our partners and stakeholders, and get out in the community and provide education in that area," said the Chief.
- Rolling forward with enforcement when marijuana is legalized, and adapting to and settling in with the associated changes.
"It's been a busy year for the Estevan Police Service, without a doubt, and we are looking forward to 2018," stated Ladouceur.