The Delta Police Department is looking to better engage with the public in 2017 by creating a council of community partners to help the department keep in touch with residents’ concerns.
DPD Chief Neil Dubord spoke with the Reporter last week to reflect on the year that was and to discuss the department’s plans for the new year, including an increased focus on community engagement.
“We can still do better on [this] and I think in 2017 that’s what we want to try and concentrate on,” Dubord said. “We do want to try and have more of an outreach into the community.”
To do that, the department is creating the chief ’s community council, an assembly of stakeholders to focus on public safety issues and help ensure appropriate resources are deployed in the most efficient and effective ways possible.
“We know that our community is continuing to diversify and as it diversifies there are different attitudes and perspectives that we may not be aware of from different areas of our community,” Dubord said. “We hope that they will come to these meetings…and then they’ll take the information that they learn and bring it back to their communities and be able to discuss it. [In turn,] I’ll take the information [I learn] and talk about it within the organization. It’s a two-way transfer of information.”
The council will be comprised of representatives from community organizations such as Reach Child and Youth Development Society, Deltassist and the Delta Hospital, as well as individuals from the community at large.
Dubord said he expects the terms of reference to be ready by the end of January and to go public with a call for interested parties to apply next month. After that, the council will meet quarterly, beginning in March. The meetings will not be open to the public.
“That way it encourages open dialogue and [council members] can be frank and as direct as they need to be in any particular situation,” he said. “It also provides an opportunity for us to set good agendas and be able to ensure that we cover things that are important, like, ‘Tell us why people would not want to report a crime to the police? Is it because they have no confidence? Is it because in the country they come from the police and the community have a different relationship? And how can we bridge some of that?’”
In addition to the community council, Dubord said the department will continue looking for more informal ways to receive feedback from the community, such as through its successful Cappuccino with a Cop events and by expanding its reach on social media.
“The traditional town hall method doesn’t always seem to work so well anymore, unless there’s an identified significant problem, and then people come together,” Dubord said. “But for a general meeting just to provide input, townhall meetings don’t seem to attract the number of people that is helpful.”
Instead, the DPD will focus on connecting with the community through live Facebook chats and Twitter town halls, hoping to engage younger audiences that can be hard to reach through more traditional means.
“We don’t just want to be able to put out in- formation and not have that dialogue, so we hope it will create that two-way dialogue with people that do want to engage,” he said, adding that social media accounts are not monitored 24 hours a day and so should never be used as a primary way to contact the police.
“But if they have a concern or they want to tell us about something that’s been happening that doesn’t require an immediate response, then social media might be another way for us to interact and engage the community.”
The department is also taking steps to ensure officers have a more visible presence in the community and get the chance to interact with the public in-person and on a daily basis.
Dubord said DPD’s Delta service enhancement plan (D-SEP), the result of last year’s operational review and community survey, will allow the department to ensure service standards while providing proactive time for officers to do “problem-solving community engagement.”
In addition to making sure officers attend all priority-one calls within eight minutes, the plan also allows them the opportunity to leave their vehicles, walk the beat and engage with Deltans face-to-face, something residents had asked for in the survey.
“Sometimes when you’re inside the car, the window’s rolled up and the radio is on, you have a tendency to drive by things and not be as engaged with the community as you could be when you’re walking,” Dubord said. “So we want to give them more opportunity to do that over the course of the next year.”
As part of D-SEP, the department is also looking at moving the North Delta community police station from its current location inside Scottsdale Centre to a more visible and inviting store-front.
“Right now, because the mall has certain hours when it’s open, it’s not always easily available and you have to come inside the mall to see it. We want to have a police sign on the front of it. We want people to be able to walk right in and see officers right through the front windows.”
The department is looking at several locations in the Scott Road area. The hope is to have the new location up and running by the summer.