Sustainability. Affordability. Effectiveness. Public trust. Responsibility. Excellence. These themes have circulated in discussions about public safety for more than a decade. Canadians want them all and voice this expectation in an especially raw tone in the aftermath of tragic natural and human incidents.
First responders are on the front lines, rushing in to serve and protect. Behind them are others who share responsibility for public safety: community members, public and private institutions, interest groups and multiple orders of government.
Countless post-incident reviews, coroners' reports and commissions of inquiry confirm the need to integrate policy, knowledge, resources, practice and expertise – and contain costs. Critical analyses in Canada, the US and Europe call for change. Western democracies seek to build trust and legitimacy of police and other public safety bodies, establish clear policy and oversight mechanisms and enhance community connections as the first step in preventing disorder, crime and terrorism.
These objectives can be achieved even with current fiscal constraints, stresses The Canadian Centre of Public Safety Excellence (CCPSE), at the Atlantic Police Academy (APA) of Holland College (HC) in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. The centre is inspired by the current opportunity to transform important elements of the public safety universe. Affordable excellence is within reach.
"Public safety" is a fairly new term which captures a broad-ranging, complex and multi-dimensional concept. It means protecting individuals from personal threats where they live, work, worship, learn and play – often from the people in their lives. It means preventing and responding to a wide variety of incidents in public spaces, from natural settings to urban spaces and areas that support infrastructure. It means managing the movement and activities of those in criminal justice institutions, for the protection of themselves and others. It means responding to disasters that threaten lives and property, from house fires to terrorist attacks.
The stakes are high. The taxpayer demands value for money and has little tolerance for waste in times of economic stress and insecurity. Governments demand results linked to expenditures and investments, and are hard pressed to manage debt and deficits. Citizens demand accountability and transparency and desire meaningful input into policy and procedure. Many eyes (and recording devices) are fixed on those who make decisions and carry out operations.
Debate rages on whether society is willing to sacrifice humanity in the quest for safety and security. CCPSE believes we can harness the best knowledge, resources and determination to achieve both.
The overall objective in reaching a state of public safety excellence is preventing crime and disorder and responding to public safety threats by using cost-manageable techniques that integrate and exploit systems and technology, increase public confidence, minimize harm and maximize effectiveness.
This complex environment presents challenges for those who educate, train and prepare first responders. CCPSE is meeting these challenges on several fronts through its five programs.
Graduates of the basic firefighting program are accredited by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC). Their course certificate is recognized by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC).
Conservation enforcement is offered to qualified forestry, wildlife, fishery and environmental technicians and graduates of a recognized renewal resource program.
The correctional officer program – for those who monitor, supervise and interact with incarcerated offenders – covers supervision of inmate movement both in and outside the institution.
The sheriff and public safety officer program is designed for municipal peace officers, highway safety and by-law enforcement officers.
Police science (cadet) program graduates are ready to be hired as police constables.
The centre is serious about applying the concept of integration in all facets of its work. At the organizational level, it benefits from its position within the APA and HC, enjoying a robust collaboration with other training and academic institutions. Its own staff complement is talented and respected, integrating external experts into the in-house structure when required. Most notably, the centre draws upon public safety professionals to offer practical experience and insights.
The centre is committed to accessing and using existing resources, facilities and infrastructure available at the APA and HC in the most efficient and effective way. It is located in Slemon Park, which is managed by a Crown corporation that holds the former RCAF Station Summerside assets, including an airfield, firing ranges and training facilities for scenario-based exercises, driving, defensive tactics and others.
The centre is expanding the use of expensive modern simulation technology, which becomes less costly per unit when made more widely available. Police agencies are not the only beneficiaries. Clients in other programs also use it so it is not left sitting idle. Program sessions are staggered to ensure that APA residential and teaching facilities are fully occupied as much as possible.
This model represents the integration of physical plant and administrative functions of several separate but linked entities, without duplication of effort or expenditure. It allows the CCPSE to gain access to resource personnel and bricks and mortar facilities on a cost efficient, as-needed basis.
At the policy level, a strong and growing research stream from the academic world feeds into high standard curriculum development, an ever-green approach to course content and direct support to the educational mandate. This is a two-way street, with practitioners proposing areas that require further academic attention.
Policy is informed from other sources and with respect for Canada's demographic reality and history. For example, the decision to focus on First Nation public safety concerns has led to the creation of a culturally-relevant program and an enhanced relationship with Aboriginal peoples. Similarly, the judgmental use of force training has been expanded to include approaches to situations where mental health issues may be a factor. There is truly an integration of knowledge from many sources, resulting in a learning environment enriched by and enriching to participants.
The centre stands apart from many other training establishments in the way its programs are financed. Clients are funded either by their home agencies or self-funded if registered in the police science program.
Home agencies economize by using the centre for training rather than developing their own programs. Potential employers of police science graduates receive fully-trained cadets rather than hiring recruits who subsequently must be trained at police agency expense.
At the educational level, the centre is applying an approach that integrates skill-based competencies with an academic program developed by in-house curriculum specialists in collaboration with public safety agencies. The five on-the-ground programs currently offered meet, exceed and in some cases set the most stringent industry standards.
The basic firefighting program, for example, has been established in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association Standard 1001 for fire service professional qualifications. Standards are maintained and constantly improved through regular, real-time interaction with Canadian and US members of the State and Provincial Police Academies Directors, an international association that promotes collaboration around training standards.
All programs are delivered by experienced staff in state-of-the-art facilities. Clients engage in creative problem-solving and interactive sessions designed to replicate real life scenarios and problems. Self-assessment against rigorous standards encourages independent learning, skills refinement and continuing professional development, as clients understand their individual and collective responsibilities for public safety and can identify areas for continued enhancement of skills and knowledge.
Striving for excellence may seem to be a bold step at a time when "good enough" seems to prevail. The CCPSE is founded on the conviction that excellence is attainable and affordable. Why would Canadians settle for less?
Chief Edgar A. MacLeod, LL.D (HC), COM, is the Director of the Atlantic Police Academy. Visit www.ccpse.ca for more information on the Canadian Centre of Public Safety Excellence.