January 24th, 2021

Woods is more than acting Chief of Police

By Nick Kuhl on December 28, 2019.

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald


While being thrust into the role of Chief of Police was not what he 
expected in 2019, Scott Woods has embraced the opportunity. And rather 
than being content to act as a placeholder candidate while the police 
commission seeks a permanent replacement, Woods is keen to run with 
his own agenda and do what he thinks best to make the city safer for 
all residents.
“First of all we had to digest the fact (former Chief Rob Davis) 
was moving, and then start moving along as an organization after the 
fact,” explains Woods, who has been acting Chief of Police since 
September. “After you digest it, you realize there is still and 
amount of uncertainty as to what that’s going to look like. I knew I 
would be the acting chief until they named a new chief. But one of the 
fortunate things about being the deputy chief is when the chief’s not 
here, you are the chief. However, it’s different when you know that 
chief is leaving for good, and it’s all going to fall on you. But I 
do welcome the opportunity.”
What grounds Woods is a philosophy of respect.
“I want us to be a police service that respects everyone inside and 
outside of this building,” he says. “I want us to be a humble 
police service. I think humility has been lost a bit in the policing 
Over the last four months, Woods has been tasked with carrying forth 
some of the programs started by his predecessor such as the Community 
Peace Officer program and The Watch.
Woods has nothing but praise for The Watch, and the role it serves in 
the community.
“They have been out since May, and I have heard a lot of good 
feedback,” he confirms. “I think they are doing a good job in the 
community as far as being out and about in certain areas, particularly 
the downtown … It’s a huge commitment and we have had a lot of 
volunteers step up to the plate who want to do it. We look at them as 
part of the policing family and part of the community. They are not in 
the way at all.”
Woods is also committed to seeing the Community Peace Officer program 
through for at least the next year, and says he hasn’t had time to 
evaluate its effectiveness yet.
“The reality is we were funded for 15 Community Peace Officers, and 
we were hiring regular officers in addition to CPOs … We weren’t 
able to fulfill that 15 (in 2019), and we want to get them hired so we 
get them moving out and about and implemented within the framework 
that was laid down in order to effectively evaluate that. I think we 
have to let that play out a bit before we can see whether that program 
effective or not.”
Woods treads very carefully around thorny issues which challenged 
Davis toward the end of his tenure. For example, Woods says he is 
open to re-evaluating the idea of Special Constables, which was a huge 
bone of contention between Davis and the Lethbridge Police 
Association. Davis ultimately chose to go with non-unionized CPOs, 
which set off a public firestorm with the LPA.
Subsequently, unknown members of the LPA also leaked the results of a 
confidential internal survey which accused Davis of “bullying” and 
creating a “toxic work environment.”
“I think when communication breaks down things don’t work well for 
either side,” says Woods, “and I think that is what I had seen here 
toward the end of that relationship.”
Woods says he has made efforts since becoming Chief of Police to 
reopen more positive communication channels with the LPA executive.
Woods has also never wholeheartedly embraced former Chief Davis’s 
much-quoted mantra: “We cannot arrest our way out of a drug crisis.”
“The reality is we have a crime problem in our community, and people 
are becoming more and more frustrated,” states Woods. “We need to 
do something. What we are doing currently, and what we have been doing 
in the past, has not been effective. We need to get out there and 
start dealing with the issues that are causing a strain on resources 
to our police service, and more importantly are causing concerns in 
the community. We can’t sit back and keep going with the status 
To that end, he has decided to chart his own course by creating a new 
Crime Suppression Team led by eight veteran officers. The CST will be 
activated starting in January.
“They will be out targeting the behaviours we are seeing associated 
with and all the spin-off crime related to the drug crisis,” Woods 
explains. “They will be targeting low-level drug-dealing. They will 
be targeting low-level property crime stuff like car prowlings. We 
have had a big spike in commercial break and enters. We’re going to 
be targeting some of the areas where we are seeing increased violence. 
It’s going to be intelligence-led enforcement. It’s going to be 
both overt and covert.”
Woods realizes he is putting his credibility on the line by pushing 
forward with the CST. He is betting on the effectiveness of his 
officers, and putting his own career on the line to back that bet. He 
acknowledges he hasn’t been offered the full-time police chief role 
“I firmly believe if we are effective enough with of some this stuff 
that we need to deal with, I think it will, in the long run, ease some 
of the work on other areas of the police service,” states Woods.
One incident beyond Woods’ control earlier in the year was the 
incident where an LPS officer killed a deer which had been wounded in 
a previous collision with another vehicle. That the wounded fawn was 
suffering was not in doubt, but ASIRT was called in to investigate 
whether or not the officer’s decision to dispatch the wounded animal 
by repeatedly driving over it with his police vehicle was a criminal 
act of animal cruelty. ASIRT ultimately cleared the officer of any 
criminal charges associated with incident, but it left an ugly mark on 
the LPS nonetheless, acknowledges Woods.
“That was certainly a very contentious issue within the community for 
some,” he confirms, “and absolutely for many others outside of the 
community. We had calls from Australia about that … So you bring in 
an independent body like ASIRT to look at it.”
Woods says the department is still putting together a procedure manual 
for officers on how to deal with similar situations going forward in 
the most humane way possible. But, he also states, it is unfair to 
place a police officer in that situation. They are not wildlife 
control officers, he says, but often have to assume that role because 
there is no one else who is willing or available to come out and deal 
with it.
“The reality is we get called again as police very regularly to have 
to deal with animals, particularly deer, within the city because as we 
continue to grow as a city we push more and more into their 
territory,” he says. “They do get hit by vehicles, and we have to, 
at times, dispose of these animals. And we only have limited tools and 
ways to do that. If we can take anything forward from this incident 
that is a better process for the animal itself, our police service and 
our community, we definitely will.”
Woods says it’s similar with other social issues, particularly 
related to mental health and the drug usage, police are called to deal 
with in the city all the time. It is not their jurisdiction, it is not 
their expertise, but there is no one else people can call to deal with 
“We need some help,” Woods admits. “A lot of this stuff is 
falling on the lap of the police services. There needs to be a lot of 
entities in society stepping up, and most of these things are health-
related. Addictions, for example, are health-related things. We are 
getting called to more and more mental-health calls where we are the 
default service because nobody else knows what to do; so they call the 
police service. We need other entities in the community to deal with 
these people. At the end of the day, unless somebody is breaking the 
law, we don’t have a lot we can do. We are really being called out to 
things we shouldn’t have to be called out to.”
Woods says things like greater mental-health outreach resources, 
social housing, detox and more drug treatment in the city would go a 
long way in that respect, and allow his officers to focus on what they 
are meant to: targeting crime.
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

Share this story:
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

There are some good points that I agree with but the question is will the Mayor allow you to act on them if they challenge the SCS. For some reason he protects that like it is his own business, ignoring all of the businesses that have fallen from the increased crime!

We first have to acknowledge that we have a serious First Nations addictions issue creating many of the problems and that over 80% of the users of the consumption section of the site are FN.

For decades we have had a FN addiction problem on our streets of Downtown Lethbridge, starting with the first shelter that was on 1st avenue south where ReMax now is. That small shelter saw about 25 middle aged FN using it as a base, wandering the streets during the day doing exactly the same as we now see, only instead of drugs they were drinking alcohol or using other ways to get intoxicated.
In efforts to deal with the problem back then Council thought building a bigger, better shelter on the Northside where it now stands would solve the problem . . . it never!

Instead, the businesses on the Northside were now impacted as well as the downtown core, because they still came downtown and continued the drunkeness, open sex, urinating and even defecating around businesses and since there was now more accommodations, the numbers increased . . . build it and they will come!

When the opioid crisis hit North America, Lethbridge found itself suffering the same issues and the native gangs increased in 2015, bringing with it more drugs, native prostitutes and other criminal elements. Now instead of drunk FN middle aged we have drug addicted FN performing the same indecent acts, now openly injecting drugs throughout downtown, while spreading out throughout the city stealing anything they can to pay for more drugs!

We need effective treatment programs, not a place that supplies addicts with all the drug paraphenalia they require to do the illegal drugs, a place whose budget for staff is $5.33 million per year, which goes to pay the salaries of 79 full-time employees and 98 part-time employees, with the top paid person getting paid $200,000-$250,000 per year.
$5 million would be better spent on effective treatment programs which would get these people off the streets and they wouldn’t need to be committing all the crimes to pay for their addictions.
Treating the FN addicts should have been the focus years ago! No none wanted to open that door and admit that was the basis of the problem.

I am calling it for what it is! If you want to get rid of the problem you need to focus on the cause and the cause is the addictions!

The more garbage drugs they do the more they turn their brains into Swiss Cheese and the higher the costs to the healthcare system.

Vancouver DTES has had 16 years to get it right and still have fatal overdoses increasing, increasing addicts numbers, increase in crimes and homelessness and it is rippling into other ares of the province.

If it was an effective program, they would see decreasing numbers after 16 years!

We are making the same mistakes they have been, and in the Greater Vancouver DTES region with about 20,000 people, over $360 million is spent per year on over 260 social and housing programs.
I see the same “mission creep” happening here!

Arrest them, give them the choice of prison work camps or treatment effectively with programs that work in the states, without any safe consumption sites, that are 12-15 month programs with low failure rates as low as 16%!

And before you say that there has been a reduction in fatal overdoses this year so the SCS works . . . BS . . . they failed to also state that Meth has made a comeback this year and in Lethbridge alone, almost half the users at the SCS now are using Meth, which isn’t or hasn’t been an overdose issue or problem and Naloxone has zero effect if there were. They failed to bring that point up with their recent news release!