For many people, this week is for looking ahead and planning a new, better year than the one before. So 980 CJME’s Lisa Schick sat down with Chief Evan Bray to talk about what he thinks 2019 will bring for the Regina Police Service. The following are highlights of that interview.
Lisa Schick: Is there anything that you see in the coming year that you are particularly excited about, or looking forward to?
Evan Bray: The new headquarters … we’ll actually see some construction happening in 2019 with a goal of likely actually moving in 2020 and 2021, moving into the new headquarters. I think that’s very positive …
But really, I think it’s just about being able to tackle issues that are present in our community … guns, drugs and gangs. And do it in a way that it’s not just the Regina Police Service trying to solve these problems, because a lot of times they’re much deeper than that; they’re rooted in social justice issues. And so the more we can bring in our partners in health or education, social services, or even front-line organizations … and so the ability for us as a police service to recognize the value that they bring to our community and work with them on issues, not only are we going to make it a healthy and happy community, but we’re going to reduce crime, and that’s gotta be the ultimate goal too.
LS: Are there any challenges you see going forward in the coming year?
EB: I think the challenges that we saw in 2018 are going to, for sure, continue into 2019 …
We’re revising our stolen auto strategy and how we work on that. We have good strategy and we are very responsive to trends on a daily basis within the police service, but we’re getting some partners involved to see if there isn’t a better way to try and address this issue in our communities. So, we’ll be coming out with that in early 2019, and hopefully be able to take a bite out of the stolen auto problem which is causing us an issue.
Guns and drug work will continue to be a focus, operationally, of the work that we do.
And then things like traffic safety, which, we’re not talking about often, it gets overshadowed by the drugs and the guns. But, traffic safety is an important part of it because, if we hear one thing from citizens in Regina, the most overwhelming complaints we get from citizens is often traffic related — dangers in school zones, speeding, not stopping at stop signs, not obeying traffic lights, those types of things. So, our traffic work that we do in our community will continue.
Distracted driving, obviously, is something that we need to continue to focus on — we had some members, personally, writing over 1,000 distracted driving tickets (in 2018). It’s a challenge that everybody can see, all you need to do is pull up to a red light, look to your left or right, chances are someone’s on their phone. And so, if we can dig into that and make some positive steps forward I think that’s going to be a good thing as well.
LS: The change to the drunk driving laws that just came into effect from the federal government — allowing police officers to request a breathalyzer test without needing to suspect a person is driving drunk — do you think that’s going to change much how the Regina Police Service does that enforcement?
EB: I don’t think so. I’ve been asked this question before, and it does loosen the parameters around which we can make a breath demand. So, you can do it now much easier, I guess than you had before. But, the reality is that our officers are still going to be looking for signs of impairment, so if they’re, you know, watching someone driving and they’re weaving on the road or after they’ve stopped a vehicle they notice the person is displaying signs of impairment — those types of things are still factors that are going to lead them to make a roadside breath demand.
Maybe in a stop-check situation we might see that, we might see more people being asked to give us a breath test, but even that, it takes time, and there’s really no value in just randomly doing it. It takes time, energy and effort, and I think if we make sure the resources that we use, the police officers that are out there are trained, as they are, to be able to identify signs of impairment, that in many ways is much more successful and indicative anyway of impairment rather than testing a bunch of people.
LS: Looking at meth, it was a big problem in 2018. Do you have any special programs or initiatives you’re planning in 2019 on that front?
EB: There’s a couple of things going on: Number one, we’re in the process of formulating a gang strategy in Regina, and really, that is about working with partners to try and come at it from a few different angles. One of them is education and prevention from youth being basically recruited into gangs. That work is going on with the school districts in the city of Regina. Of course, the suppression and the work that we do in terms of enforcement of gang activity in the city is continuing on … So, that’s gang related, but gangs are often associated with drugs, and so that’s one way that we’re combating this issue.
We’ve got an opioid strategy in the city that we’re working on that really tries to focus on harm reduction — are there ways we can help people get healthy if they’re suffering with addictions. And we’ve got a lot of different community groups mobilized and interested in helping out there.
It’s just constant, it’s not any one thing, there’s no magic solution to this, it’s just our ability to try and work together on this.
LS: Is there anything you learned in 2018 that you’re looking to apply in 2019?
EB: I’ve talked about the trauma-led investigative work that we’ve done in terms of training. That, really, is going to help inform a lot of the work we do on domestic conflicts and sexual assaults.
Domestic conflicts are a big problem in our community. We take over 17 a day, just in the city of Regina. We in Saskatchewan lead the nation in stats, and that’s not a distinction that we want to have. So we’ve set up a resource, not only a website, but it starts with a website, it trickles down through training of all of our officers, and then all of the supports that surround it.
I’ve been told (it’s) second to none in Canada; lots of really positive comments about that. So, I’m hoping we’re going to start to see some positive results from that.
And that doesn’t just focus on victims and families, but it focuses on offenders as well.
Is there a way we can dig into what’s causing people to offend? It’s easy to say, if you have someone who has a drug addiction, that it’s the addiction that’s causing them to do drugs.
But what’s causing domestic conflict within a household can be a bunch of different things — it can be the loss of a job, it could be some historical trauma that happened to someone in the household, it could be one person in the household that’s causing turmoil for the rest of the family.