Quality of life

Patrycia Thenu
August 01, 2010
By Patrycia Thenu
The quality of life, safety and security of Edmonton’s more than one million residents are the top priorities for the Edmonton Police Service (EPS). The latest example – an annual policing plan outlining policing priorities and performance targets developed last year saw crime decrease by more than two per cent, despite the slowing economy and other environmental factors. The service continued to work towards its goal of reducing crime and victimization by responding to priority one calls within seven minutes, 90 per cent of the time; dedicating 25 per cent of patrol time to proactive activities; and working closely with community partners.

The quality of life, safety and security of Edmonton’s more than one million residents are the top priorities for the Edmonton Police Service (EPS). The latest example – an annual policing plan outlining policing priorities and performance targets developed last year saw crime decrease by more than two per cent, despite the slowing economy and other environmental factors.

The service continued to work towards its goal of reducing crime and victimization by responding to priority one calls within seven minutes, 90 per cent of the time; dedicating 25 per cent of patrol time to proactive activities; and working closely with community partners.

This success boosted public confidence and the overall quality of life in the city.

The EPS launched a new crime-mapping online system which allows residents to view local crime statistics, providing them with knowledge about incidents occurring in their neighbourhood and empowering them to work to prevent it.

h3. Showing their true colours

The service also unveiled its first colours and a redesigned crest in January, 2009. The colours were designed and approved by the Canadian Heraldic Authority. They are dark blue and have a gold fringe which contains embroidered wild roses and maple leafs. At the centre is the new crest, surrounded by the names of officers who have been killed in the line of duty.

Retired EPS Chaplain Kurt Schmidlin blessed the colours, which were officially presented to the chief by Alberta Lieutenant Governor Norman L. Kwong. The motto on the new crest – integrity, courage, community – expresses the character of the service.

The service bought a second helicopter in September, 2009, allowing the flight operations unit to respond to more calls and provide air service seven nights per week (up from five). Air time is expected to increase to 1,500 hours a year, up from around 1,000.

The flight and canine units work together closely, with an eye in the sky and noses to the ground, playing pivotal roles in attending 2,200 calls for support, resulting in 462 arrests last year.

h3. Special teams

Implementing special project teams in the city’s five patrol divisions numbers was one of the service’s most significant accomplishments last year. The majority of crime and disorder is perpetrated by repeat offenders; 20 per cent commit some 80 per cent of the crime.

Most prolific offenders commit crimes to support drug and alcohol addictions and specialized teams focus solely on them. Working directly with divisional intelligence and crime investigation detectives has proven to be an effective and efficient mechanism to combat this problem.

The teams have helped the EPS identify potential suspects and targets responsible for the majority of the crime, disorder and victimization in each division.

h3. New training

A new training program is enhancing the way officers think about, respond to and describe the professional application of force.

“It’s a different way of looking at use of force,” says training branch Insp. Bob Hassel. “We are changing the way we articulate use of force events and the way we explain it in our notes, our police reports and ultimately in court.”

The new training paradigm is called reasonable officer response (ROR) and is based on the expectation of Canadian jurisprudence and the standard of objective reasonableness and the following factors:

Lawful and professional presence;

Tactical communication and considerations;

Officer perception (environmental, officer and subject factors);

Officer response.

“Any time we use any type of force, we shall ‘test’ our actions against the following criteria: were we lawfully placed?; did the officer subjectively believe that the amount of force was reasonable?; and, would an objective, reasonable person (standing in the officer’s shoes) believe that the level of force used was reasonable?,” says Hassel.

The biggest change is in how use of force events are explained.

“I am confident that in most instances we are applying force in a professional manner, but in many cases in the past, we didn’t adequately articulate the ‘reasonableness’ of the use of force we were using,” says Hassel.

As part of the ROR program, officers receive enhanced training on ‘tactical communication,’ including appropriate testimony in a judicial process using plain language instead of traditional police terminology.

The goal is to minimize complaints, increase criminal convictions, provide more knowledge about application of force and raise the overall level of professionalism when using force, explains Hassel.

“It will also give officers more confidence that they made the right decision,” he says.

Approximately 1,300 officers have been trained since the first phase started in January. Phases two and three focus on patrol members and continue this fall. The program has already gained recognition and interest from the solicitor general and other Canadian and US police agencies.

h3. Recruiting

The EPS continued to receive interest from people wanting to join. In 2009, 169 new recruits graduated; whether at the neighbourhood level or at a special event, residents welcome the presence of more police officers on the street.

h3. Life-saving course result of near-fatal shooting

It was a few minutes after midnight on June 29, 2006 and Cst. Dan Furman was investigating a weapons complaint at a flop house in the city’s north end when he was shot several times at close range.

“I looked up and saw a gun pointed at me from about three feet away. I had my Taser in my hand. I pulled the trigger and the suspect (at the same time) pulled the trigger on his gun,” he recounts. “I was shot in the chest, which fractured my sternum and knocked me down. When I came to, I saw the suspect standing over me and he shot me two more times. One bullet went through my (left) hand and the other through two ribs and my right lung, which severed a brachial artery.”

He lay on the floor, bleeding, wondering if he would survive. Partner Cst. Jason Mitchell, who applied advanced first aid learned during his military training, saved his life.

“I was told by more than one doctor that I would have died if Jason wouldn’t have had this extra training,” says Furman.

Following this life-altering experience, Furman and Sgt. Dave DeMarco, who heads the officer safety unit, proposed developing the Officer Down Casualty Care Course (ODCCC). Training is based on the tactical combat casualty care course received by all military officers. The one day course was developed in collaboration with other agencies, including emergency medical services and the University of Alberta Hospital.

“I saw there was a huge need for us to have this kind of training, especially since we’re pulling knives and guns off many suspects. The potential for this to happen (to another officer) is very real,” says Furman.

The inherent risk and danger in policing is more real today than any previous point in history, says DeMarco. “It is certainly fair to suggest that predictable losses are mitigated through competent and credible training and preparedness. The ODCCC provides necessary skills and tactics to respond to life threatening injuries when an officer is critically injured and faced with imminent total blood loss.”

The training consists of:

  • A motivational component, including interviews with the three officers involved in the June 29 incident;
  • Casualty care, including deadly bleed and
  • direct pressure first aid; Officer/citizen down rescue strategies and six 30-minute scenarios which take participants through dynamic, life-threatening events involving rescues and on-scene casualty care.

Two lives have been saved and more than 1,000 members have been trained since the course was first offered in the fall of 2009. The EPS is offering the training to other policing agencies and is currently working on developing a 60-minute video telling Furman’s story.

Although it’s been four years since the shooting, Furman says the incident is still fresh in his mind and new emotions surface every time he talks about it. “It’s been therapeutic to speak about it and it helps me deal with what happened,” he says. “It’s also about putting the bad behind me and focusing on the positive that has come out of (the incident).”

Furman currently works in forensics, which he says is “as close to operations without actually being on the street,” something that he’s not sure he’ll ever be able to do again.

h3. Chinese cards

A small and simple initiative which began almost a year ago has led to big changes. Three downtown division detectives discovered last summer that Chinese elders weren’t reporting crime when they were victimized due to a language barrier and strong distrust of police. The three constables, who speak fluent Cantonese and Mandarin, decided to hand out a small card with their contact information in these two languages. They call their initiative the Chinese Liaison Program.

Since then, lines of communication have been established and a solid foundation of trust has been built between the community and police. Residents, business owners and especially elders are more willing to report crime and other suspicious activities.

“There were some questionable and obscene things going on right in front of patrons dining at a Chinese restaurant across the street from the Hope Mission and it was making not only the business owners but also the customers feel very uncomfortable,” says downtown Cst. Mike Bates. “Before the Chinese Liaison Program we weren’t aware of this issue, but once it was brought to our attention, we could do something about it.”

The solution proved to be quite simple, says Bates.

“We couldn’t change some of the things that were happening on the sidewalk, but we were able to move the line up at the shelter to the other side of the building, which solved the problem.”

Other calls that the officers have received range from harassment at bus stops to personal robberies in front of the Chinese Multicultural Centre. Some information has even led to the discovery and shut down of an illegal massage parlour and a $25,000-fraud investigation at West Edmonton Mall.

One of the most significant changes is the establishment of police agent status with almost each and every single business in Chinatown. Anyone who strolls down the busy street will notice the sticker in most doors and windows.

“We personally visited close to 100 businesses and met with their owners,” says Cst. Derek Huff who worked alongside Furman on the initiative. “It allows us to deal with any issues immediately, like trespassing or loitering, without contacting the owners and thus eliminates a few steps and speeds up the process.”

A list of Chinese-speaking officers is being compiled and the EPS is considering expanding the project to other areas of the city.

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