Getting the Job Done

Francois Moisan
July 08, 2015
By Francois Moisan
Quebec City has been booming in the last few years, vaulting to the forefront as one of Canada's most attractive cities. The economy is approaching full employment and the population grows every year. The good news gets even better, as city hall goes all out to bring in and foster activities of all kinds all over town. It's a festive city and a great place to live. This kind of exuberance is a real plus, but for the police it calls for new approaches that provide the right response in new situations.

Quebec City has been booming in the last few years, vaulting to the forefront as one of Canada's most attractive cities.

The economy is approaching full employment and the population grows every year. The good news gets even better, as city hall goes all out to bring in and foster activities of all kinds all over town. It's a festive city and a great place to live.

This kind of exuberance is a real plus, but for the police it calls for new approaches that provide the right response in new situations.

{A new vision of public safety}

An attractive city is a place where people feel confident. Quebec City has a low crime rate and people feel highly secure wherever they live or go, thanks in large part to the hard work and effectiveness of the Service de police de la Ville de Quebec (SPVQ). This benefits everyone.

A city that works is a city that constantly seeks to provide its residents with better and more efficient services. For years, the SPVQ has put itself under a microscope, studying best practices and implementing the latest proven approaches.

This is an essential task because policing is a key part of Quebec City's vision of public safety. The city wants to migrate from a silo-based approach to policing, firefighting, emergency management and civil security. It wants to embrace a holistic concept of urban safety that treats the public's sense of security as both a priority and motivator of growth and development.

The SPVQ has charted a course to meet these objectives as it works to foster further public safety enhancements in the years to come.

{Structures for major events}

A provincial capital hosts numerous international events and political functions, but Quebec City really got into festive gear after celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2008. Today, it hosts some 500 large and small events every year; all call on the police for support.

"The events boom was one of the reasons we decided to fine-tune our policing methods," explains SPVQ Chief Michel Desgagne. "We need to be able to deal with all the possible situations that might arise during events. We have to be ready to respond both to incidents at the event itself and to anything else that might happen around town at the same time.

"We developed an approach that keeps participants and police officers safe, facilitates event organization and keeps vehicular traffic moving."

It all begins with planning for the event, which is done jointly by the police department and all its partners, both private and public. For cultural and sporting events, for instance, police officials meet with the promoter. The city has even produced a "Promoters Guide" that summarizes main responsibilities and thoroughly explains the initial steps in developing and planning an event.

Then SPVQ trains and mobilizes its officers to make sure the necessary personnel are available to face any possible scenario that calls for police intervention.

"Depending on the size of the event," explains Insp. Serge Morin of the Operations Support Section, home of the operational planning and management module, "we can deploy up to four levels of coordination and control to keep a handle on the overall situation and still maintain our response capacity and resilience. There's the command post, onsite event coordination centre, mission operations centre and operational planning centre."

The Mission Operations Centre (COM) is a dedicated space reserved for use by the SPVQ and partner officers so they can deal with the potential impacts of an event on the rest of the city. Members of the fire department, public works department, RTC transit corporation and the city transportation division might work jointly with SPVQ officers to keep an eye out to make sure everything goes according to plan. The COM is in constant contact with officers at the Onsite Event Coordination Centre (OECC).

The OECC brings together those directly involved in the event at the location. In addition to police officers and partners, representatives of the promoter are on hand so that direct contact can be maintained throughout the event and any necessary decisions can be made jointly.

Closer yet to the event is the command post, which is set up in the SPVQ's mobile command unit. This is where officers direct police operations in the field. The SPVQ just updated its unit to incorporate the latest high tech equipment to manage police operations, including computer hardware and software, specialized apps, maps, cameras, etc.

In addition to the structures immediately involved in coordinating the event, there is also the operations planning centre (OPC), which meets for events that may have a major impact on the city. In such cases, staff officers meet in the chief's office to assess the event's medium and long-term impact on the public and the organization and decide on appropriate policing strategies.

During the terrorist attack in Ottawa for example, OPC members met to assess the risks and trace possible short-term implications in Quebec City. Decisions and concrete measures may be based on the OPC assessment of the situation.

"These structures are all multifunctional," says Morin, "and can also be used for unforeseen events such as floods and snowstorms, criminal situations or for large-scale sports or cultural events."

{Use-of-force framework}

The SPVQ makes sure it is always prepared for any events or situations that may occur. The department spends a lot of time and energy to ensure officers are as well equipped as possible to do their jobs safely. Human resources are a key part of an organization's success, which makes training and technical support for officers the top priority.

One issue the SPVQ has been working continuously on in recent years is implementing a use-of-force structure designed to provide officers with the support they need for certain interventions.

The structure, the only one its kind in North America, is staffed by a lieutenant and 15 counsellors – all police officers – who support officers involved in potential use-of-force situations in the field.

The team is deployed throughout the city and available 24/7. All members have advanced training so they can back up their colleagues in situations involving potentially armed suspects or where there is a high risk of confrontation.

Since its implementation in 2012, occupational health incidents and complaints against officers have both declined.

"Having specialists in the department available to support officers on these kinds of interventions means we can serve the public better while providing a safer environment for our members in the fulfilment of their mission," says Desgagne.

{Upcoming changes}

In the months ahead, the SPVQ will be taking a new look at one of its primary missions: local surveillance.

The current model of work organization for local surveillance was instituted in 2002 after municipal amalgamation. It is high time to reassess how things are done from a continuous improvement perspective.

Numerous changes have occurred in the policing environment over those 13 years, including changes in the nature and forms of crime, public needs and expectations and information and communications technologies. New policing methods and approaches have been introduced, urban development has increased, events in the metropolitan area have multiplied and client profiles have changed.

Organizational changes over the last few years have increased the effectiveness of various departments. The restructuring of the special investigations and services assistant directorate and the consolidation of youth workers have both produced concrete results.

For local surveillance, the SPVQ hopes to establish a team with the flexibility to handle a variety of situations. It is seeking to improve day-to-day performance to adjust to the needs and expectations of clienteles while meeting the demands of a modern police organization. To this end the SPVQ is presently looking at whether it makes sense to maintain four police stations in different parts of the city, as is currently the case. Other aspects of the work environment are also being examined in the search for potential improvements.

The SPVQ is ready to take on these challenges as it works to remain a police department that not only gets the job done but does so effectively and appropriately.

BIO

Francois Moisan is a media relations officer with the Quebec City Police. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more information.

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