Initiative’s goal is transformation
By Peggy Staruch
By Peggy Staruch
Every police agency is facing the dilemma of addressing budget expectations, growth, changing demographics, growing demands for service and the increasing complexity of crime.
This is why the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) launched the Service Initiative (SI) – a transformational program meant to enhance the sustainability of its policing model though continuous improvement of service delivery and a renewed focus on policing responsibilities.
“The needs of our city are changing,” said D/Chief Jill Skinner, executive sponsor of the SI program. “We, too, need to change to ensure we are adapting to the needs of our community while being as effective and efficient as possible.”
The SI consists of five projects meant to transform the OPS policing model:
• Demand management, to reduce demands on police resources across the organization.
• Frontline deployment, to improve the deployment of frontline officers and coordinate their efforts.
• Investigative, to better serve crime victims and hold offenders accountable through integrated investigative processes.
• Control centre, which leverages intelligence information to improve public and officer safety.
• Courts, to streamline processes related to court file quality and management, attendance and prisoner management.
The OPS is looking to implement incremental changes to its policing model over the next few years to improve service, realize money and/or staff efficiencies, create cost recovery or revenue opportunities and enhance partnerships. Building on its community policing philosophy, the OPS will include members, partners, stakeholders and the public as key contributors to these changes.
The Multiagency Early Risk Intervention Table (MERIT) pilot is one example of how the OPS is looking to improve service, better manage demands and enhance partnerships. The goal is to integrate various agencies serving people in the community – police, mental health resources, social agencies and school boards – into a formal process that allows complex, high-risk cases – or those requiring a coordinated response from more than one agency – to be discussed and dealt with in a more effective and efficient manner.
The initiative has already produced results, reports the pilot project lead, OPS Cst. Ryan McEachran.
“As frontline emergency responders, police officers are literally experts in risk management; they are experienced in identifying potential risk situations and escalation,” said McEachran. “We’re now witnessing real results in how these skills can help mobilize community partners to provide long term, sustainable solutions with a greater understanding of risk.
“From our experience, a risk-based versus incident-driven approach to working in partnership across sectors has demonstrated positive outcomes for individuals, families and ultimately our communities in Ottawa.”
One example involves a 15-year-old youth who exhibited multiple acute risk factors – suicidal, substance abuse, truancy, chronic runaway, depression, prostitution, parent-child conflict – resulting in more than 42 police calls for service within a one year period. With no judgment on previous attempts, the risk factors were too complex for one agency or solution to work in isolation.
The situation was taken to MERIT. Partners all agreed on a joint short and longer-term solution involving a plan with many partner agencies and connecting services. The good news is there have been no more calls for service involving this youth.
“We’ve seen it work first-hand and we are encouraged by the results,” said OPS Chief Charles Bordeleau. “Factors like inadequate housing, poverty, lack of access to mental healthcare and unemployment can prolong dealings with police. If we bring in all agencies to look at all aspects of a case, we have a better chance of resolving it permanently.”
MERIT is not the only new initiative on the table. The OPS is also creating cyber crime and human trafficking units to adapt to shifting crime trends.
“The cyber crime unit will enhance our ability to investigate offences committed by way of, and involving the use of, technological devices.,” said SI investigations lead S/Sgt. Patricia Ferguson. “In addition, we are making our current human trafficking unit pilot a permanent team… (Its) mandate will ensure those who perpetrate the very serious and damaging offences that accompany the trafficking of young people into the sex trade are bought to account by the criminal justice system.”
These are just a few of the changes taking place at the OPS to reform its current policing model and get ahead of not only current pressures but those on the horizon.