By Kuhl, Nick on December 5, 2019.
The Watch, the Community Peace Officers (CPOs), and the Police and Crisis Team (PACT) are making a difference in the city, says the Lethbridge Police Chief.
“As we move forward with our plans with council here in the next couple of weeks, we’re very hopeful they’re all going to mesh well together with our plan going forward to truly start seeing a difference in the downtown and other areas within the city that we’re having some problems with,” said LPS Chief Scott Woods, as part of a quarterly report to Lethbridge City Council at the Community Issues Committee meeting Monday at city hall.
As part of council approving funding for The Watch, CPOs and PACT in the 2019-22 Lethbridge Police Service budget, it was directed that LPS must report quarterly on the operational progress and financial status of each program. On Monday, Woods, Peter Deys, chair of Lethbridge Police Commission, Russell Lawrence, Inspector of Support Services Division, and Mark Smallbones, A/Inspector of Field Operations Division, discussed each of them in detail.
The Watch, with an annual taxation price of $554,272, has extended postings and a recruiting strategy for new hires in January with a goal of hiring 11 part-time or full-time leads to alleviate scheduling and staffing demands. LPS also wants to increase advertising for SAFE WALK through media, social media and community contacts.
“I think The Watch itself has been really good for both the police service and the community, just getting out there,” Woods said.
The CPOs, with annual funding of $1,660,500 through taxation, LPS and an MRSR one-time allocation, are staffed with nine members. There is a timeline in place for recruiting and hiring a full complement 15 CPOs, Woods says.
“I’m very optimistic going forward that they will make a difference,” he said. “The important thing is we need to get to that staffing level, to have them out doing what we need them to do. Then be able to assess exactly what they’re doing from a statistic standpoint, in addition to what the community’s thoughts are.”
The PACT, at a cost of $124,000 through taxation, is comprised of one police constable and one Alberta Health Services mental health professional.
They stabilize individuals experiencing addictions and/or mental health issues by referring them to appropriate resources in the community. Woods says the goal is to continue collaboration and consultation with all partners and search for opportunities to develop new partnerships, as well as increase PACT’s front-line response during crisis and increase staffing to address gaps in service and to respond in a more timely fashion as LPS is responding to more mental health related calls every day.
“We have to have some of these programs in place to try to reduce some of the time and resources on that,” Woods said. “Two individuals is limited. We’ve seen some positive responses coming from that. But ultimately we’d like to have some more people dealing with that.”
Follow @NKuhlHerald on Twitter