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Improving relationship with police requires work from both sides

I recently attended the Private Sector Liaison Education Forum hosted by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) and the Association des Directeur de Police du Quebec.


November 17, 2010
By JF Champagne

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During the opening session entitled: ‘Global Security Partners — A myth of reality’, the President of CAPC, Chief Bill Blair from Toronto Police clearly reinforced the general consensus held by most attendees: in a world where fighting crime is becoming more and more complex with shrinking resources, the common goal of the public and private sectors of protecting Canadians requires both sectors to work together better.
  
Chief Blair also made distinctions between partnerships, collaborations and financial arrangements, illustrating that in some cases police forces might work side-by-side with the private sector but that in many cases it is about sharing information or simply establishing financial arrangements for the benefits of both parties.

I found  it very interesting to also hear some inside perspectives from the police sector. I believe these internal challenges impact the quality of the relationship with our sector, and speficially in two areas:

1- Lack of cohesion between police services. This should be no surprise to anybody dealing with alarm response bylaws which are very inconsistent across jurisdictions. Chief Blair made an honest statement in saying that while there can be obstacles in public-private partnerships, there are also important challenges to address in the way various police bodies interact with each other. We are far from developing a common policies on alarm response that would be supported by all police services.

2- Police Unions. A police union representative sent a clear message during the question period of the opening session that i interpreted as follow: the solution to the many challenges faced by public police services cannot be address by partnerships with the private sector but rather by increasing public funding to get more police officers hired. This should not come as a surprise, but when you consider that in the city of Toronto, 88 per cent of the police budget goes to salaries and benefits, it is clear the unions are very influential. It is unlikely that private security will be offered to work truly in collaboration with public forces as long as unions perceive us as a threat.

So what is on the mind of police chiefs nowadays and how do they see the role private security can play? The main concerns continue to be terrorism, the ever complex fight against cyber-threats and online crimes, shrinking budgets and rising costs of policing. Wherever the private sector can help in theses areas without compromising the strongholds of police unions lies opportunities.

Meanwhile we must accept the fact that police response to alarms remains low on the priority list of police chiefs. To use the words of Jacques Duchesneau, a former chief of police for the city of Montreal, ‘the problem continues’.
As difficult as it may be, our only chance to change this fact will come at the cost of compromises. That can only be achieved once we have established an on-going relationship built on trust and respect. And we’ll need to make the first step.


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