Regina Police Service Chief Evan Bray has now completed his first full year in the role.
In a year-end interview with 980 CJME reporter Sarah Mills, Bray said there were many highlights. He pointed to a reduction in crime in some areas, and plans in place to tackle what he calls the “reoccurring crime we have in terms of drugs, gangs, firearms within the city.”
On a personal level, Bray is pleased with the community presence he has fostered since becoming chief.
“We are very much involved in the community from our frontline officers, to myself and the rest of the executive team,” Bray explained.
He noted there’s a stakeholder consultation where 50 to 60 people from different groups around the community provide feedback to the service.
“It’s almost like our report card; we get them to tell us what are we doing well, what are we needing to do better, where do we need to improve and that really gives us an opportunity to reflect upon ourselves, see how the community looks at us, see how our partners in community safety see us.”
Bray doesn’t want to take his foot off the gas pedal when it comes to that work and the difference it can make to public perception of police and what’s expected from officers.
“You want to ingratiate yourself to the community, build those relationships, learn how to communicate and form friendships and partnerships that will benefit every organization. That’s no different in policing,” Bray maintained.
“The essence of policing is understanding the community’s needs, having the community feel like they trust you as an organization, that you are responsive to crime challenges in the city, approachable, transparent, benefits happen when you build those relationships.”
Moments that stood out for Bray in 2017 include the crime stats trending down, notably that attempted murder has decreased 56 per cent in the last ten years. There was also innovative programming like cops on buses checking for distracted driving and the firearm amnesty this past summer.
Bray is particularly proud of the work undertaken to reduce domestic conflict in the city. Saskatchewan has the highest rate of domestic violence in the country.
“We’ve put together a new approach that I think is quite responsive. It not only helps victims and their families, but it also prevents recidivism, which is a big part of it. Being able to work with offenders to try and find ways to tackle the root causes of why they are offending in the first place,” Bray said.
With the purchase of the former Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) depot in Regina, which is across the street from the current RPS headquarters, Bray called 2017 a “busy year.”
Police bolster frontline in 2018
The RPS has also undertaken a complete review of patrol units and 20 officers are expected back on the frontline first thing in the new year.
“We want patrol officers to do proactive work. If they work in a certain neighbourhood where we’ve been having problems with garages getting broken into, what about stopping by houses or talking to people on the street and say, ‘hey just so you know we’ve been having garage B&E’s here so we want you to protect yourself,’” he said.
“That is the role of police. I think that is what people expect us to do.”
Bray knew with budget limitations at city hall it was unlikely there would be money for new officers and this review forced what he called some” hard decisions” and two specialized units were eradicated allowing for the extra officers.
It means starting January there are additional resources assigned to every weekend in 2018.
“That presence on the frontline and getting police officers to your door if you call 911 or if you have a problem, that’s important and the public expects that.”
Those extra officers may be necessary as police services around the country prepare for the legalization of marijuana sometime this summer.
While police have faced some criticism saying the decision by the federal government should lighten the workload, Bray argued that is not necessarily the case. While there may be fewer citations and tickets for officers to write out, Bray said “the war on drugs is not over,” with crystal meth and fentanyl the major issue driving crime.
However, Bray argued, it is naive to think the legalization of marijuana will mean no spin-off work for police.
“Alcohol’s legal and does that cause police any work, I ask rhetorically,” Bray laughed. “What type of a device are we going to use at the side of the road to determine whether someone has drugs in their system. We have to train our officers, we need drug recognition experts, get education out to the public, to the schools, who will regulate dispensaries,” Bray asked.
Bray also raised the question on what the price of marijuana would be and whether if priced too high it would drive the underground market and cause more crime for officers to deal with as a result.
Bray’s immediate focus will remain the move into the old STC building. Discussions are currently underway as to what departments will move and what would be best to serve the public into the future.