In October, I had the honor of attending the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia. The conference hosted approximately 15,000 police officers from across the globe and has a reputation for providing top-notch education on the most pressing law enforcement topics of the day.
This year’s event was no exception, with educational tracks on critical issues effecting police, a global perspective series, and several presentations on community engagement and building public confidence. The conference also features a vendor area, with the latest technology to enhance officer safety and data management/retrieval with an aim to reduce the administrative time for criminal investigations.
I personally attended sessions on building public trust through community engagement, meaningful relationships and leveraging partnerships, how mid-sized agencies are using data to combat violence, sexual assault violence and the impact of social networks and police work and crime reduction, just to name a few.
What was obvious in several of the presentations was the difficult job that some agencies have to overcome a history of racism, profiling and integrity issues within their ranks. These agencies are now attempting to close the divide in their community, through many community engagement strategies in an effort to restore public confidence. In order to move forward and attempt to gain back public trust and confidence it will be important for these agencies to acknowledge the mistakes of the past, accept a historic responsibility for these events occurring and begin reconciliation by entrenching themselves in the communities and schools.
In Medicine Hat, we are ever mindful of the importance of maintaining public trust and confidence in the Police Service. While we may not have the same deep-seeded issues that some other agencies face, we recognize the importance of and encourage our members and staff to become actively involved as members in organizations throughout the city. By being members of these various committees, boards and groups, we are better able to connect and understand the needs of our community, and it allows us an opportunity to add value, and sometimes a unique perspective, to these communities through sharing ideas and experiences.
We also recognize the need to ensure that we keep the lines of communication open, not only to keep the community informed of our activities but also to provide opportunities for us to hear and learn from those we serve. To quote Sir Robert Peel, the father of modern policing, “The ability of the Police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police existence, actions, behavior and the ability of the police to secure and maintain public respect.”
Having the opportunity to learn from the experiences of other police agencies across North America and globally was a valuable experience and I am confident that we have the right approach and we will continue to be leaders in policing.
-Inspector Brent Secondiak has been with the Medicine Hat Police Service since 1999 and has served the community in a variety of units including the Patrol Section, the Drug Enforcement Unit, the Major Crimes Section and the Administrative Services Section. He is currently a member of the Executive Team and provides oversight to a variety of sections, including Major Crimes, Community Safety, the Tactical Team and the Victims Assistance Unit.