One officer believes community policing is the proactive change needed following the new carding regulations recently laid out by the provincial government.
At the end of October the Ontario government drafted a set of regulations to prevent police from arbitrarily running street checks, or so-called carding. The draft outlined conditions and protocols for the way police are to handle these interactions.
But 51 Division’s Const. Crispin Barnes says the practice is unnecessary and a more positive initiative is needed.
“With carding, people have to understand that those street checks don’t prevent crime — it helps solve certain crimes, but it is an information-gathering tool,” Barnes said. “Is it necessary to run street checks? To me it’s not, because we need to go towards a more community based policing”
There is some mending to do in the relationship between community and police. Barnes feels it’s the police who need to be the ones to act first.
“The police have to go out there and start building trust. Instead of going out and shaking down people…. Instead walk up and say, ‘Lsten we got to start working together. I need your help and you need my help,” Barnes said. “We have to go to the people who have lived there, who are good people, who go to work everyday, pay their bills and raise their children, not the people starting shit in the community.”
Barnes also says “foot patrol is huge” in rebuilding a positive relationships in the community.
There is evidence to support that ideology from other municipalities. Foot patrols were recently introduced in both Ottawa and Seattle with great success.
Sergeant Paul Gracy of the Seattle Police Department says foot patrol is an essential part of community policing.
“Foot beats is one of the best ways for an officer to get out and actually get to know his neighbourhood,” Gracy said. “It gives you an opportunity to get to know the people. You get to know the people, you get to know the problem.”
In Ottawa the police department implemented a foot patrol unit during the summer months in the Lowertown neighbourhood. Staff Sergeant Sammy Fawaz says it was a success from a policing standpoint.
“We found this past summer, our crime rate decreased for the two months we had a Lowertown foot patrol,” Fawaz said. “it is a deterrent, because they know they’re (police) out on foot … instead of in a car.”
He said the decrease in crime was not the only positive byproduct of the foot patrol.
“Not only was there a decrease during that time frame, but the comments from the members of the public were very positive,” Fawaz said. “The people that resided there, the people that worked in that area, the people that own businesses there were seeing the presence.”
Barnes said he is not alone in knowing a change in police strategy is needed in Toronto.
“Don’t think for one minute that the traditional model of policing where you react, you go in, arrest the criminal and put them in jail is the way police officers want to police,” Barnes said. “They understand it is a bigger issue that needs a better solution. We need the community’s help.”