By Kalinowski, Tim on February 1, 2020.
Simon Griffiths was acclaimed as the new chair of the Lethbridge Police Commission earlier this week after Peter Deys stepped down from the role upon ending his commission term. Griffiths was asked his thoughts on Deys and other departing commissioners Jeffrey Coffman and Jean Valgardson in an interview with The Herald.
“I don’t have enough words to thank Peter Deys,” he said. “He went above and beyond the call of duty. I think in the last couple of years the workload on Peter was tremendous; it was absolutely startling. And he was nice man to serve under, and he is a good man. Jean has served six years. I think Jean brought a thoughtful, empathetic view to the commission. She was lovely to work with. Jeff Coffman I always found to have thoughtful, considered input. I always had a lot of time for Jeff Coffman. He was committed, thoughtful and he always had the interests of the community at heart. All three are good people, and they served the city well.”
Griffiths admitted being acclaimed as chair was still a bit unexpected, but he was looking forward to the challenges ahead of which, he was sure, there would be many.
“The drug crisis is more top of mind now than it was when I first started,” he explained, “and the police have limited resources to deal with the problem. And policing is only part of the solution to the problem: There are other aspects you have to get your head wrapped around when it comes to the drug issue in Lethbridge.”
Griffiths, a chartered accountant by training with a gentle accent touched by the many far-flung locales he and his family have lived in over the years, currently serves at Lethbridge College’s vice-president of corporate services and its chief financial officer. He said he views his extra duties on the police commission as part of his community service owed to the city he has called home these past eight years.
“In the beginning I just thought it was interesting, and it would be a challenge I had never been involved in before,” he explained. “I also wanted to participate in an important function in our home city, the police service. As time has gone past, it has become more and more important in our city with the crime that is increasing. The police, I think, do a great job; they are part of the solution to the crime we have. One of the important functions of the police commission is we give policy and direction to the chief of police, and we act as the interface between the community and the police service. The direction we give the chief of police ensures we have the best policing service possible for the city.”
Griffiths said the most important order of business the commission will undertake in his two-year term as chair is the hiring of a full-time chief of police.
“It’s an important decision, and you have to make sure, to the extent possible, you get the right person,” he said.
Griffiths said he expects that decision will be made by June.
But in his role as chair, Griffiths is also expected to be the face of the commission in the community.
“It’s something I have to get used to,” he admitted. “And something I am going to look for some coaching on. I like people. I am gregarious. But it’s a little bit unusual for me when people are standing with microphones in your face. I can talk to you, and I can talk to another three people, and it’s an absolute pleasure to do so. But when somebody puts a camera on you, and you have people sticking recording instruments in your face, it’s a little bit disconcerting.”
Griffiths said if he has one promise for the community at the start of his term it’s that the police commission will fulfil all its proper oversight duties and obligations for the betterment of the city.
“I guess my comment to the community is I want to make sure the commission does its job properly, which it does, and by doing its job properly I believe we will have a properly informed and directed police service which serves the citizens of Lethbridge.”
“And maybe,” he added, “we will begin to get our arms around this uptick in crime.”
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