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Agility is the key.

With a New Year upon us, it’s time to reflect on new changes and new beginnings for police services across Canada.

March 14, 2017  By Tom Rataj

by Bryan Larkin

We all have a lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to as we leave 2016 behind and look ahead to 2017. This includes a shared effort between police services across Canada when it comes to such things as combating drugs, tackling cybercrime and reducing the effects of the pending marihuana legalization in our country.

The key to success in all of these areas is agility. Policing today needs to be adaptive, flexible and priority focused. We, as police leaders, need to be able to change and respond to issues quickly as they arise. It is essential that we build organizations where our members support the efforts to address the changing needs of our community.

There may be no better example of this than the fentanyl crisis that is sweeping across our country at an incredibly frightening rate. From January to October, 2016, a total of 2,988 samples from services across Canada were sent away for testing and found to contain fentanyl and/or its analogues. That number is up from 193 samples in 2012. In Waterloo Region, from January to October, 2016, we had 84 samples test positive for fentanyl and/or its analogues, up from two samples in 2012.

This drug is a game-changer in the Canadian drug culture and requires a commitment from police and community services across the country to work together to halt it head on. We need to realize we will never be able to arrest our way out of this drug crisis and instead need to work to embrace a harm-reduction approach that encourages needle exchanges and supervised injection sites for addicts. We need to focus on dealers, not the users. Most importantly, we need to be ready and adaptive to change when a crisis such as this takes hold of our community and threatens its safety.

Likewise, as we head into the future, we can’t ignore the significant rise in cybercrime that is taking a toll on our communities. From online predatory crimes, online bank information theft, identify theft and cyberterrorism, technology plays a large role in much of the crime committed today. In fact, it’s estimated that 53 per cent of our crime has some type of technology involved in it. Therefore, it’s important that we incorporate a dedicated team of officers whose sole focus is on curbing cybercrime.

The legalization of marihuana is also an issue affecting police services across Canada, putting officers in a precarious position since, although it is still technically illegal, it is expected to be legal soon. It is causing concern in regards to several issues including, access to the drug by young people, road safety, dependency and the monitoring and availability of poor-quality products. Changes will be occurring at a rapid rate in 2017 and we need to be prepared to take them on.

But it’s not just criminal issues that we need to focus on. Taking a look at your internal organization is just as important. In fact, it is essential and beneficial for every service to focus on the morale and wellness of its employees. Our Service is fortunate to be able to provide Road to Mental Readiness training for every member, reminding us all about the importance of peer support and self-care. Our organizations are only as good as the people who help run it, which means the health and wellness of our employees is vital to a successfully-run service.

To summarize, we need to modernize our agencies to keep up with these ever-changing issues, as well as the changes in public policy and public demand. This is done by being adaptive, flexible and priority focused. If we do this, we will be able to maintain the exceptional leadership, commitment to community service and passion for policing excellence that we all strive to provide.

About the author:

Bryan Larkin is the chief of the Waterloo Regional Police Service in Waterloo Region, Ontario. He started his policing career as a constable with the Waterloo Regional Police Service in 1991 and quickly rose through the ranks to become superintendent and Executive Officer. He also served as Deputy Chief and Chief of the Guelph Police Service from 2011 to 2014. In 2016, he was made a member of the Governor General’s Order of Merit of the Police Forces. He can be reached at

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