Problem based learning

Sharon Baiden
June 09, 2009
By Sharon Baiden
A barren treeless landscape, the result of decades of mining, is what people often visualize when they think of Sudbury. While mining has helped shape the community and plays a key role in its past, present and future, Greater Sudbury has evolved from a mining town to a regional capital, a community with diverse interests, a rich cultural heritage and an internationally recognized land reclamation initiative.

A barren treeless landscape, the result of decades of mining, is what people often visualize when they think of Sudbury. While mining has helped shape the community and plays a key role in its past, present and future, Greater Sudbury has evolved from a mining town to a regional capital, a community with diverse interests, a rich cultural heritage and an internationally recognized land reclamation initiative.

Formed in 2001 by amalgamating the towns and cities which comprised the Regional Municipality of Sudbury and unincorporated townships, Greater Sudbury is the largest municipality in Northern Ontario. Greater Sudbury Police Service (GSPS) is responsible for patrolling an area covering 3,627 sq. km. (1,400 sq. mi.) with a population of 158,000.

Encompassing both urban and rural areas, the city has 330 freshwater lakes, four post-secondary institutions and a diverse ethnic population, including the third largest Francophone population in Canada outside of Quebec.

A bilingual community, Greater Sudbury is also home to people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, including Italian, Finnish, Greek and Native American heritage. The community’s unique geography and multicultural structure pose a number of challenges for the GSPS and the department has been evolving the process it uses to better serve the public. Problem based learning

Faced with these unique markers, Sudbury’s 259 officers and 120 civilian members last year responded to more than 60,000 calls for service. There was, however, a realization that the traditional police model was in danger of leading members to become simply “call takers.” In response the service has adopted a new way of doing business through problem based learning (PBL).

This transition was the result of a full re-examination of how services are delivered. In the fall of 2008, 13 officers participated in a dynamic and unique training opportunity promoting the development of creative and innovative solutions to real life problems. The PBL model has been integrated into all sworn and civilian ranks with a full commitment throughout the organization to move forward with the new model.

“We have noticed that officers throughout the ranks have felt more challenged and enthusiastic about their daily tasks,” said GSPS Chief Frank Elsner. “The new delivery method has led to a more community-minded service within Sudbury and has energized our organization.”

Equipped with a new set of skills, GSPS members now examine issues with an open mind to give feedback, generate new ideas and create action plans for improvement with a primary focus on customer service and excellence. Each individual within the organization has the opportunity to be a key participant in activities and is encouraged to think critically, work as a group and collectively find the resources needed to solve problems.

PBL Instructor, Acting Sergeant Carrie- Lynn Hotson is ecstatic with the progress with PBL, “Employee feedback to PBL has been positive.” Staff is encouraged by the changes, feel their concerns are being addressed and are enjoying meeting together on common ground, discussing issues and collaborating on solutions. Officers have new tools to work with the community in removing the perceived barriers to service delivery presented by the city’s sheer geographical vastness. Outlying areas will be better served through the use of the rural squad and community response unit to deliver comprehensive services.

Working in partnership with the community, problematic areas are identified through crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) audits. Both units are actively engaged with the community and have further expended their role to address issues around ATV use, snowmobiling, boating safety and other rural matters. Service wide, members appear to exhibit more confidence and creativity in their jobs.

With the changing face of membership and ongoing recruitment, GSPS requires new staff members to complete a community project during their orientation period to familiarize themselves with the area. Members identify a problem in their patrol area and must make several contacts with possibly affected parties and, in partnership with key stakeholders, develop responses for improved community safety.

GSPS continues to protect the public with this increased focus on accountability, leadership, supervision, training and analytical thinking. As a citizen-centred police service, members are committed to a response that is becoming increasingly efficient and effective within the community. A caring community

Named Canada’s fourth most caring community by the Canadian Council on Learning in 2008, Greater Sudbury has one of the highest volunteer rates per capita in Canada, according to 2004 Statistics Canada data. Caring and volunteering are key components of the PBL model, which embraces the use and recognition of the valued contributions of volunteers.

The team serving in the citizens on patrol program and at storefront volunteer locations are key participants in the commitment to community mobilization and ensuring citizens are heard.

GSPS will continue to evolve in response to the changing world while remaining focused on Sudbury’s ethnic diversity, vast geography and the historic roots that make the community so unique. In this respect they look to the future with energy and enthusiasm.

With its multicultural roots, access to the wilderness and major attractions, Greater Sudbury has become a popular tourist destination. Annual festivals celebrate the community’s multicultural diversity and history while attractions such as Science North and Dynamic Earth are two of Canada’s largest and most innovative science centres. Ontario Chief’s conference

The region has also become a choice location for hosting events. This year Sudbury will be the proud host of the 58th Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference, which runs from June 21 to 24. This year’s them, “Globalization and the impact on policing,” is bound to challenge delegates in many different ways and change the way they think about law enforcement.

“We are excited to be hosting this event in Sudbury,” said Elsner. “We will ensure delegates and companions alike are treated to some warm northern hospitality while gaining insight into the global issues facing police today.”

The four-day conference will include a half-day event where delegates can see the latest technology, product and leading edge specialized equipment used in today’s police environment. Seminars will touch on such topical issues as generational differences in policing, emergency preparedness and peace operations opportunities overseas.

The conference will close on June 24 with an animated and enthusiastic presentation by Sudbury’s Gerry Lougheed Jr., who will inspire and motivate police leaders. An update on emerging legal issues in policing will follow, leading into the annual general meeting.

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