OALEP Progress through networking
August 18, 2011
By Julie B. Grimaldi
If you have never heard of the Ontario Association of Law Enforcement Planners (OALEP), you might be in for a surprise. For some, it may conjure images of policy bureaucrats or ivory tower thinkers, but for a growing field of public safety professionals and executives, it represents a forum that allows police and other law enforcement agencies to find answers to the problems of tomorrow, as well as those faced today. If you have ever been faced with having to respond to a formidable recommendation made by an Inquiry, or ensuring your members have the best information available to help make them effectively accountable when carrying out critical duties, then you already know the value of being networked with professional police and law enforcement planners. OALEP provides exactly that in Ontario and is open to membership from other provinces. Proud of the PastThe Ontario Police Forces Planning Association (OPFPA) was the original forerunner to OALEP and came into being in the early 1980s. The intent was to provide a place where law enforcement planners could enhance their knowledge and professionalism through training and networking with colleagues employed by other law enforcement agencies in the province. During the 1980s and into the ‘90s, planners and policy analysts met regularly for a couple of days, three times a year, at the Ontario Police College (OPC). Here, the group of anywhere from 20 to 30 members hailing from all corners would have a chance to discuss future policing issues with government appointed experts, like Scott Campbell (then Chairman, Strategic Planning Committee on Police Training and Education), and various Chiefs of Police of the day. Back then, OPFPA also sponsored a one-week police planner’s course every June at OPC. Like most organizations, however, the recession of the ‘90s coupled with dire recruitment needs left their marks on the OPFPA. Member agencies amalgamated and government support through OPC lessened as the availability of accommodations diminished. By 1996, OALEP came fully into being with a name change, a new mindset, and a typical annual membership of about 45 agencies. Having lost its traditional host location for meetings, networking opportunities were modified to better fit the times. Twice-yearly symposiums emerged side by side with the introduction of an electronic bulletin board, allowing solutions to topical issues and calls for information and assistance to be discussed in both real and virtual environments. Locations for symposiums also began to rotate from east to west and into central Ontario, in the spirit of fairness to recognize the jurisdictional vastness of the province and the distances that members would have to travel.Refining for the FutureSince then, the semi-annual symposium has become a signature OALEP event. Today, it provides a forum for training through presentations and seminars delivered by subject matter experts on contemporary issues in law enforcement, as well as a venue for holding twice yearly business meetings with member agencies present. These networking opportunities geared specifically to law enforcement planners are a major strength of the symposiums. More recently, the structuring and format of events has been refined in that member agencies now have the opportunity to showcase their organization by hosting a symposium that they know will be attended by many other law enforcement agencies. Because membership in OALEP is by agency, all employees are automatically members at no extra fee. This benefit enables host agencies to send as many employees as they wish to attend the local symposium at substantially reduced costs. Agencies that host symposiums work closely with the OALEP Executive Board to prepare for the event. Once a theme is established, the Board works diligently to seek out keynote and other renowned speakers of interest. In recognition of the host agency’s time and effort, OALEP donates a $500 honorarium to the Chief’s charity of choice. In the fall of 2010 and spring 2011, an estimated 100 symposium attendees benefited from presentations on the science of law enforcement planning from specialists like Dr. Tullio Caputo (University of Ottawa) and Peter Bellmio (Maryland, USA), and engaged in diverse discussions about strategic partnerships with leading-edge practitioners such as Supt. Paul Pedersen (York Regional Police), Michelle Dassinger (Calgary Police Service), Staff Inspector Tom Cowper (New York State Police), and many others. Staying true to the new norm, OALEP’s next symposium will take an introspective look at managing risks through the eyes of specially engaged experts. Being held in the City of Vaughan (Nov 7-9), it will feature a side tour of York Regional Police Service’s newly opened investigative services facility. As well, the recipient of OALEP’s 2nd Annual Report Award will be announced, with the prize being a donation to the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation on behalf of the winning organization.The OALEP Executive Board has been active in introducing other developments. In 2010, under the leadership of President Margaret Gloade (Waterloo Regional Police), the primary goals of the Board were officially articulated as raising the profile of the organization and improving communications within the membership. The pursuit of these goals is taking on momentum: OALEP has been made the first Canadian Chapter of IALEP (International Association of Law Enforcement Planners) and a members’ newsletter, Blue Print, was established in the fall. These initiatives were followed by the launching of a newly designed website in April 2011 that added many new features and functionalities. The next step is the development of a live listserve that will further promote and enable critical, real-time discussions and information sharing. Like any non-profit organization, OALEP is member driven. Its volunteers are dedicated and committed to improving on the successes in law enforcement in Ontario as well as contributing to the wider public safety milieu, nationally and world-wide. For tomorrow, the Executive Board plans to work harder at promoting planners as key professionals who possess research and evaluation skill sets unique to law enforcement, and to increase its own capacity to provide greater training and networking. The wealth of home-grown expertise that resides in and is shared through collectives such as OALEP provides a foundation of knowledge and innovation that can greatly assist both new planners and executives alike. The sharing of contemporary issues and concepts through symposiums and networking make these forums truly a home to progress in law enforcement planning. Author’s note: Thanks are extended to Barry Horrobin, Windsor Police Service, who provided early historical context. Barry is a Founding member of OALEP (OPFPA) and current Treasurer. To find out more, visit www.oalep.ca. About the Author: Julie Grimaldi has worked as a Planning Officer for the Ontario Provincial Police since 1990. A graduate of both York University and the University of Toronto, she holds an Honours BA degree in Philosophy and Law & Society, and a MA degree in Criminology. Julie is a Past President of the Society of Police Futurists International and currently holds the position of OALEP Vice President-Administration.