By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on December 29, 2023.
While reflecting on 2023 during a recent year-end interview, Lethbridge Police Service Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh said that in a nutshell it was another great year for LPS.
Mehdizadeh told the Herald that like other communities and police services, LPS had many challenges but also many opportunities they were able to capitalize on to serve the community.
When looking back at the past year, he talks about it from the three pillars that are part of LPS strategic planning: crime, community engagement and employee wellness.
“During the first half of 2023 we were actually seeing a slight increase in some criminal behaviour and statistics, and obviously with – as we’re much more data-driven and intel driven – when we look at these trends we see what we can do to actually get ahead of them and provide a safer community, and I’m glad to see that in the last half of the year we’ve been having positive trends to reducing those crime trends,” said Mehdizadeh.
Â He explains that the final numbers are not out yet and police will have to wait to see how 2023 was from the crime trend perspective, but once the data becomes available it will be shared with the public.
Â “I would say we would probably be looking at very similar data, but if there is an increase or decrease it is going to be very minor changes, which is good because we have to realize three years in a row we’ve been very aggressive to driving our CSI (Crime Severity Index) down,” said Mehdizadeh.
He says when adding the CSI reduction percentages between 2020 and 2022, with six per cent CSI reduction in 2020, seven per cent reduction in 2021 and 8.3 per cent reduction in 2022, that totals over 20 per cent reduction in CSI over the course of three years, and LPS is aware they cannot maintain that progress as aggressively, and therefore they are not expecting a big change in CSI from 2023.
“The good news is that we’ve really done well to drive crime down through a lot of the proactive actions, better investigations, crime reduction methodology and use of comp stats and intel policing, and also our citizens have been critical in partnering with us to help drive crime down.
“The bad news is we still have crime and we’re still higher than what we like to be, but that is the piece that we’ll continue to work with our analysts, with our programs and identify where we need to deploy our resources that’s going to bring the best resource to keep this community safe,” said Mehdizadeh.
In terms of community engagement, Mehdizadeh said it was amazing for LPS as they had very well attended town hall meetings in each part of the city for the first time in the history of the department, along with multiple opportunities for interaction with the public.
“The town hall meetings in the south, north, west and downtown allowed us to meet with our citizens face-to-face to provide information to them, hear from them, and educate each other, and that’s something we’re going to continue for 2024 because those face-to-face interactions are important,” said Mehdizadeh.
He said in addition police took part in many events to provide support to different organizations in the community through the charitable work LPS employees do and. They also had multiple impromptu meetings with the community.
Â “Too many of them to mention, but our employees are very much invested in whatever we can do to support any community group. We’re always very excited to do that, but more importantly the community always comes to support us when we’re doing those initiatives,” said Mehdizadeh.
When it comes to employee wellness, Mehdizadeh said the Police Commission and the association provided LPS with an internal survey that showed very positive results.
“We were showing significant improvement in the morale in the department. We have our employee wellness coordinators starting this year, which was a position that we have asked to fund, and the City provided us funding for that,” said Mehdizadeh.
Â He believes LPS is the only department of its size that has a wellness coordinator, which allows police to have someone dedicated on a full-time basis to coordinate programs and provide the support LPS employees need to make the department better.
“In departments this size typically this is done on the corner of a few people’s desks, but now we actually have someone to take all that and actually more meaningfully support employees and guide them in the right direction, to have that true engagement with their well-being from mental, physical, emotional and connect them to any program that they need.
“We have many great programs, but sometimes it’s just a matter of somebody needed to coordinate connection,” said Mehdizadeh.
He said when employees, including civilian staff, were asked in the survey if they felt valued at work, 98 per cent replied yes.
“We are glad that they feel that way, and that employee wellness perspective, based on evidence, we’re doing much better,” said Mehdizadeh.
And when asked about what 2024 looks like for LPS, Mehdizadeh said they already finished their annual policing plan for 2024 with initiatives to contribute to the three pillars.
“One thing that’s going to be coming in 2024, and we look very much forward to it, is our Blackfoot values project. Every employee, every unit had input in it, it’s all employee driven. The young Blackfoot lady that we had as a summer student brought an idea that she wanted to have Blackfoot values within a Blackfoot culture, so she managed to get Elders to actually see the values that we have and find which Blackfoot value that corresponds to, so now we have a merging of our values with the Blackfoot values,” said Mehdizadeh.
Â He said the artistic reflection of those values will be unveiled in 2024. Mehdizadeh added LPS is also looking forward the annual Polar Plunge in February in support of Special Olympics
Â “We look forward for the community to come out and support this great cause for our special athletes, so we can actually raise money for Special Olympics,” said Mehdizadeh.
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