Chair of Police Service Board
The chair of the Police Service Board is appointed by the province for a three-year term. This is her second term and probably her last one.
At the outset, she expressed strong confidence in Chief Paulson and his management team. She felt there was a good working relationship, at least at the level of meetings and sharing information on current issues. She did have some reservations about the capacity of the Police Service to adapt, especially around emerging crime patterns, policing methods, and the changing population profile. She reported on what she sees happening in Hope City and the police's role in it.
Like the CAO, she sees the city changing. While she sees the rise in ethnic groups, she also sees parts of the city being nothing more than commuter subdivisions. The ones closest to the arterial roads seem to be deserted or ignored as far as active community policing goes. She also notes how there is a lack of community resources and activities to keep youths out of trouble.
She feels that the issues of rising youth crime, vandalism, and drug use are not getting the attention they deserve. She even disputes a lot of the public opinion poll results, saying that these numbers are general and not community based.
The chair is worried about succession planning for the Police Service. She sees an aging service with a lot of senior people ready to retire. More important, as far as she is concerned, she also sees that a lot of seasoned street-wise officers are leaving. She sees this as two issues, not one. In fact, she thinks the loss of street experience is more of a concern than the loss of managers. She also cites the inspector ranks with long experience in areas such as homicide who will be leaving soon. She notes that the rank below this, staff sergeant, is a small cohort populated by "a bunch of guys the same age as the bunch of guys they report to."
Generally, the Police Service Board feels that Chief Paulson tries to provide the information that is needed for the board to function well. She feels that he is overly protective of his operational role, insisting, for instance, on being the only senior officer to appear before the board. While the board members have plenty of informal interaction with line command staff, they seldom see them performing in a formal way. They miss out on seeing what their potential is. She feels that it is a lost opportunity not to use the board to profile senior staff accomplishments. The Chief argues (not aggressively) that he would rather his command group spend their time on operational priorities and he would handle external relations. The board members' view is that they are not external.
The budget is a concern of the Police Service Board. The board supports the need for the best resourcing, but feels that the lack of a long-term perspective, especially for big-ticket items like computer systems and vehicle replacement, always puts them in opposition to the City Council. The board is responsible for setting the budget, but worries about whether the Police Service knows what it will need in the longer term to be sustainable. No matter what anyone says about who is responsible for what, the board needs the chief's advice in these areas. The board is concerned about the level of good professional advice on the financial and administrative side. The board feels it is often surprised by budget requirements. Board members are also aware that this surprise and its negative consequences are something the City Council and city staff note about the Police Service.
She feels the police are responsive and professional. However, they are not as active in pursuing preventive measures generally associated with community- based problem solving as they might be. To date, she sees only token efforts; for example, even the community liaison officers, it would seem, are appointed only as a break from their car and street duty, and not with a strong mandate. She has also become aware of the move in some Canadian and American communities toward what is called intelligence-led policing, which is the application of computer analytics to both crime and police contact information to better understand trends, hot spots, and key priorities. She has seen demonstrations of this and was impressed.
She also pointed out that the growing ethnic communities have little formal or informal contact with the Police Service. In fact, the gulf appears to be widening. She pointed to the number of comments that some ethnic community leaders make to the press about police insensitivity, even though she has no evidence of it. She wonders what the Police Service actually knows about these communities and what crime potential they pose (e.g., terrorism).
The chair wonders how well some hot spot issues are being addressed. For instance, she noted that some neighboring communities had developed aggressive antigraffiti programs to increase community mobilization. She did not think that the Police Service had to do it on its own but should be open to partnerships.
The chair felt that Chief Paulson was open to the public, but that the Police Service as a whole was not as active in such matters as consultation and outreach as it could be. She worried that the ethnic changes in Hope City had left the Police Service behind. Further, she often gets complaints from business groups that they are not being heard by the police, especially around issues of graffiti, and also youth in the downtown area who are intimidating seniors who shop there.
Finally, she cited the relatively poor performance of the Hope City Police Service in comparison with other services, based on the Provincial Adequacy Standards program that uses performance data to compare services. She noted deterioration in some response time issues and the number of uncleared major crime cases. "I'm not one to proclaim we are the best. But it is not exactly satisfying proclaiming we are happily stuck in the middle."