Blue Line

Features Q&A
University of Alberta Protective Services, Edmonton Police Service partner for Liaison Officer project

April 27, 2020  By Staff

Edmonton Police Const. Garth Snider, right, and Director of University of Alberta Protective Services Marcel Roth. Photo: University of Alberta Protective Services

University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS) and Edmonton Police Service (EPS) began working on a pilot project last year, largely in response to elevated crime rates on UofA campuses. The UAPS/EPS Liaison Officer project, featuring an embedded EPS officer, strives to go beyond and address some of the core issues motivating chronic offenders. UAPS’s director, Marcel Roth, connected with Blue Line to share more about this partnership.

Q: What does the UAPS/EPS Liaison Officer project entail exactly?

EPS Const. Garth Snider, who has been on the force since 2008, transferred to work with the University of Alberta in September 2019 as part of this pilot program, which seeks to engage in increased intelligence sharing between the EPS and the university, as well as focusing on chronic ongoing issues and prolific persons.

With years of beat experience, Const. Snider has consistently been involved in community policing — from dealing and working with vulnerable persons, students, to building relationships with community groups and businesses.

Q: Where did the idea for the project come from?

The concept came from the need for a response to elevated crime rates on UofA campuses and the identification of a relatively small number of chronic offenders.

The overall goal is to reduce and solve crime in a partnership, featuring improved information and intelligence sharing in addition to addressing the core issues motivating chronic offenders. There are currently 20 success measures being tracked by UAPS and Const. Snider, with an emphasis on the following measures: resource reductions, intelligence or information sharing, enforcement or diversion efforts with chronic offenders, UofA community survey results, and our overall rolling 12-month crime statistics.

Q: Tell us how this differs from a School Resource Officer (SRO) deployment.

This program is unique as Const. Snider focuses on working jointly with the University of Alberta Peace Officer Program and its members. Const. Snider engages with not only students, but also faculty members, assisting with UAPS investigations. He is also able to focus on chronic issues while targeting persons with mental health concerns and drugs addictions, and utilizing other agencies within Edmonton.

In contrast, SROs work closely with students to keep them out of trouble while identifying issues. The UofA Liaison Officer works in a larger concentrated area, which involves more adults over the age of 18.

Q: What kind of results are you seeing?

Thus far, there has been a decrease in the number of calls for police to attend on campus. Other projects have also been started from our model, seeking to focus on the larger scale impacts, and involve other secondary institutes within Edmonton, the Edmonton Community Standards (a branch within the municipality), and additional law enforcement units, such as the Light Rail or LRT Beats within EPS. These projects foster the sharing of information of common “Crime Trends,” person dealings, and other intelligence of that sort.

As an example of this, Const. Snider recently obtained an “Assist to Identify,” or ATI, regarding a robbery suspect that had occurred at another post-secondary institution. Const. Snider shared this information through the UofA Intelligence Sergeant, who in turn shared with UAPS members. Within minutes, the suspect was identified and the information was shared with the investigating officer in another division. Based on this sharing, charges were laid.

Q: Did UAPS and EPS have any similar, prior partnerships?

UAPS has partnered on smaller, finite projects or joint training in the past, but nothing as co-ordinated and embedded as the UAPS/EPS Liaison Officer project. The relationship between UAPS and EPS has been very positive. Since the pilot project began in the fall of 2019, I also meet quarterly with Const. Snider’s staff sergeant and inspector, and I meet weekly with Const. Snider to review the status of program goals. Additionally, I have had the pleasure of meeting with EPS Chief McFee on two occasions to further discuss the concepts of working differently to help each agency and better address the core causation of property crime and disorder.

Q: What are the immediate next steps?

The pilot project is funded for one year, set to end in September 2020. The University of Alberta will determine sometime this year whether the pilot plan’s success measures warrant longer term funding. UAPS is confident that the measurements are proving positive results at this stage and is hopeful the project can be supported financially for the long-term deployment of a UAPS/EPS Liaison Officer.

Q: What would you say to other campus services about this project, should they be curious about starting one too?

We would recommend other post-secondary institutions explore similar relationships with their respective police agencies if it solves an existing problem. Ours was that increased property crimes and disorder events were increasing, the number of repeat offenders seemed to be growing and our limited authorities didn’t seem to be enough of a deterrent to address and curb behaviours of non-affiliated offenders.

We also believed that the model of calling for a traditional police response to criminal events was simply not assisting in addressing the above issues and we found it challenging to create solutions for chronic offenders within a traditional call-and-respond model.

The embedded UAPS/EPS Liaison Officer model provides that coverage to address some — not all — of our calls that require a police response. The new model allows for an improved disposition, depending on the offender and their underlying issues. This model also provides an opportunity to begin addressing what motivates some of the chronic offenders by providing courses of action that differ from a typical arrest-charge-release response. It is very important that we clarify we are not saying the current/traditional call-and-respond model is broken; but rather that it wasn’t a strategy that was going to help us support our University of Alberta community in beginning to address certain issues by looking at the core causes for the behaviour.

Q: What are the long-term plans for the project?

With approved financial commitment, UAPS would seek to first compare year two results with year one and then have discussions with our EPS partners prior to year three on possibly expanding the project, as we are already seeing a potential for an additional UAPS/EPS Liaison Officer due to the nature of 24/7 operations like ours.

In the meantime, I would like to thank the following people who both assisted and are assisting to make this project a reality: EPS Chief Dale McFee, EPS Supt. Tom Pallas, EPS Insp. Bernie Loughlin, EPS Insp. Shane Perka, EPS Staff Sgt. Jeff Kaun, Philip Stack, the UofA associate vice-president of risk management services; and Gitta Kulczycki, the UofA vice-president of finance and administration.

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