Thursday, February 14, 2013
For more information, read the full proceedings transcript. You can also listen to an audio recording of the event.
[Public proceedings resume]
I would like to call this meeting back to order. This is the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. We are continuing our study on the economics of policing in Canada. In the second hour we have a witness testifying by video conference from Surrey, British Columbia. … Appearing as an individual today is Professor Curt Taylor Griffiths. He is the professor and coordinator of the School of Criminology, Police Study Program, Simon Fraser University. Professor Griffiths is considered an expert in the fields of policing, community, and restorative justice, corrections, legal reform, and social development. He has co-authored more than 100 research reports and articles, and we certainly are pleased that we can reconnect again today.
Professor Griffiths, we are ready for your opening comment. We have a committee looking forward to questioning you as well
Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity for you to hear me this time … I will provide some backdrop comments that could serve as a foundation for our discussions this morning. I think everyone agrees that we need to move toward the development of effective and efficient police services in Canada, but as an observer of this process over the last few years, particularly as the economics of policing have come more to the forefront, I’m not sure we’re going about it in the right way. I’ll offer some comments about that, and hopefully we can get into a discussion about what might be the right way.
As a consequence of our situation in Canada, over the last three decades we’ve systematically dismantled our capacities to do police research in this country. Back in the 1980s for example, there was a police research unit in the then-solicitor general’s ministry that was very effective and turned out excellent work. Another thing that happened over the last 20 years is the federal government has stopped the funding for the series of university-based criminology research centres that existed from Halifax to Vancouver. Those are no longer functioning. As a consequence, our research endeavours with respect to policing in Canada are scattered, and there is no coordinating effort. There are very few linkages among universities, governments, and police services. Research is often being done on a one-and-done basis, whether it’s by private consulting companies such as KPMG or by university-based scholars who work on a single type of project and then move on. We really don’t have a coordinating body. We really don’t have a repository, if you will, for police research, and an organization, agency, or institute that could serve as a catalyst for facilitating these collaborative relationships, and equally as important, for the dissemination of information.
There is quite a bit of information on policing in Canada but it’s often inaccessible, sitting on bookshelves or hidden away in academic journals. Again, the consequences of this is that when we start to engage in this dialogue about the economics of policing, in many respects, we are really wandering in the dark because we don’t have access to that substantive body of literature.
On a more operational basis, the consequence of this is that you have police service boards and policy-makers making very significant decisions about policing, particularly with respect to police service boards and police budgets. Municipal councils as well are making decisions in the absence of any empirical research on the basis of any information. As a consequence, the discussion tends to start with a statement such as “Crime rates are down. Policing costs are up, so policing is too expensive and not sustainable”. Again, that oversimplifies the complexity of what we’re talking about when we look at the issues related to policing.
The second point I would make is that in Canada we really haven’t defined what I would term “core policing”. We really haven’t decided what the police should be doing, and as well, what they should not be doing. If we want to talk about controlling costs in policing, then there is going to have to be some discussion about what core policing is.
Since the 1980s when we asked police services to start getting involved in community policing initiatives, they’ve expanded their role beyond that of strict law enforcement and crime control, which was something they were encouraged to do. As a consequence, police are involved in a variety of activities that are not necessarily strictly related to law enforcement. They’re involved in prevention activities and collaborative partnerships, so if we’re going to ask them to draw back from that, we have to have a pretty clear idea about what we want the police to do.
From my perspective, another thing that’s happened that’s affecting what police are being asked to do is we have a massive downloading going on.
Whenever a provincial government cuts back on social workers, mental health workers, probation officers, and other types of service delivery resources, at the end of the day, it’s the police officers on the street who have to deal with that. I think that if we look across the jurisdictions in Canada, we’ve seen police officers being left with an increasing number of tasks that, again, are expanding their role and expanding their activities merely because they’re the only agency available 24/7/365. At the end of the day, if there have been cutbacks in programs, oftentimes there’s an increased demand load on the police.
Another comment I would make that’s really important to bring up in our discussion this morning is about policing in northern and remote communities. One thing that has struck me over the last couple of years in watching this debate and actually participating in this debate on the economics of policing is that there’s been very little mention about the north. It’s a very southern-centric discussion, and having done quite a bit of work north of 60 as well as in the northern regions of the provinces, I think it’s something that really requires our attention.
In a final comment here, it’s important to realize that we’re not talking about making widgets. We’re talking about a pretty complex enterprise in terms of policing. Noticeably absent in these discussions as well is the community. In a lot of the forums I’ve been to, I haven’t heard a discussion about what the community expectations of policing are, and what the community wants the police to be. I would encourage a community component as well going forward in these discussions.
Thank you very much, Professor Griffiths.
We’re going to move into the first round of questioning. I’ve just been told that Mr. Leef is going to open up this morning.
Go ahead, Mr. Leef.
Thank you, Mr. Griffiths.
I was taking notes as you were speaking. You started catching up to the questions I was going to ask. You mentioned that there hasn’t been a lot of discussion on the north. As a member of Parliament for the Yukon and a former member of the RCMP in the Yukon, maybe I’ll give you an opportunity to share some insights on some of your work in the north and where you think the economics of policing discussion can take us there. Are there particular innovations or challenges that you see facing this discussion to move the southern-centric point of view away for a moment?
Given your experience, obviously you’re aware of some of the dynamics that go on, not only north of 60, but in the remote and rural northern parts of our provinces. I think it’s basically going to require a different model of policing. The RCMP in recent years, for example in the territories, has tried to adapt and to deliver a different model of policing. In the Yukon in 2010, for example, there was a review of the Yukon’s police service that resulted in a number of very significant recommendations. Two years later it’s encouraging to see that a lot of those recommendations have been followed up on.
I think the Yukon provides an example of what can be done through a tripartite arrangement among the RCMP in that jurisdiction, the Government of Yukon, and the Council of Yukon First Nations to come together to really address an issue and follow up with it. I participated in providing materials for the review that was done, and I’m really gratified to see the work that’s been done in Yukon. I think that it can be a model for fashioning a model of policing in Yukon that meets the demands of Yukon, which of course may be different from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut because there are significant differences even across the provinces.
I would say that the Yukon provides us with considerable optimism in terms of these kinds of collaborative approaches. The community is very much front and centre in those Yukon discussions.
I was just reading the progress report from Sharing Common Ground and you did note that many of the things that were listed as recommendations in the first report have been achieved in the update, which is great news.
You talked about what core policing is and then you said that the discussion hasn’t been defined by the community. I was thinking, as you were saying that you hadn’t defined what that is, about the Yukon example, knowing that, as much as we would like to—I say “we” as police officers—define what we think our role is when we’re out there, really it’s driven by the calls for services. It’s driven by the community, the definition of what police officers should do. It’s by and large out of your hands as a police service. It really falls into the hands of the community because they make the calls and we, as police, respond.
What are you seeing as the differences in the communities from an urban point of view of what their expectations of police are that vary from northerners’ expectations or rural and remote Canadians’ expectations of police service delivery from a community policing model perspective?
I think it’s pretty fascinating, as I said, having done work from sea to sea to sea in Canada. It’s interesting because policing in the southern regions is what I would call anonymous policing. In other words, compare an RCMP detachment in Surrey, British Columbia—it’s the largest in Canada and has several hundred members—to the one in Watson Lake. The policing in the north is high visibility, high-consequence policing whereas in the south, things are more diffused and more anonymous.
Obviously, police officers in northern parts of the provinces and the territories are very highly visible in what they do. As you know from your experience, the consequences of their decisions are potentially much greater, including in public perceptions about what those officers are doing—who everybody knows—particularly if you look at Nunavut where they’re on duty all the time and highly visible.
There’s incredible potential for communities to be involved, and they are involved. But it’s high-visibility, high-consequence policing. I think what you’re seeing now, in Yukon for example, are communities being brought into the process, to the point of vetting officers who may be posted to their communities. That’s impractical when you get into the southern regions. But within that northern policing model, there are things you can do in the north that hold great potential. As you know, the demographics are different, the environment and the geography are different.
You’d be familiar with, based on some of the recommendations, the new relationship between Corrections and policing particularly when it comes to Corrections now taking over the cellblock services of the RCMP. They see themselves as playing a better role than policing services do in providing that care, and the aftercare, after arrest.
In your opinion, how significant is the relationship between policing and Corrections? We’ve heard, loud and clear, about the relationship between policing and social services, policing and EMS, policing and mental health service delivery—that front line. But then there’s something that happens after. The justice system takes over, and people enter the correctional system and will eventually be released.
What kinds of things can we do in terms of the economics of policing, and how important is that relationship between our police and our correctional officers and correctional system?
I think that’s an area that holds considerable potential. Just as an aside; up in Yukon, I would argue that those facilities should have always been there, that the police should never have been taking vulnerable persons into cells. There should have always been something, another facility—which there is now.
What we’re seeing in some of the jurisdictions across Canada is collaborative efforts between police and Correctional Service of Canada. There are joint partnerships. There are joint teams working together to identify and monitor high-risk offenders in the community, and there are relationships between federal parole officers and police officers. When I think of the economics of policing, I think partnership, partnership. When I advise police services, I often tell them to look for a partner, not to take sole ownership of these things. It’s not part of what core policing is. So partnerships, I think, have proven to be successful, with mental health services as well, across the country. There are a lot of really good examples of that.
We’ll now move to Mr. Garrison, please, for seven minutes.
Somewhat humorously, I have to declare a kind of conflict of interest here in that I used Mr. Griffiths’ textbook for more than a decade in my teaching and have benefited from his research both as a police board member and as a counsellor.
Given some statements made yesterday, I’m just going to take a minute to say that my public record as a police board member and on a council is very clear: I never supported any reduction or moved any motion to reduce police resources at any time while I was on the police board or on the council—just so that doesn’t interfere with our discussions here.
Having taken that time out, I want to come back. I want to thank you for pointing out the problem we have with research about policing. One of the things we’re trying to deal with as a committee is how we grapple with the lack of organized information about policing.
Do you have any suggestions on specific best practices you’re aware of that we should look at, beyond the north, as you’ve mentioned?
With respect to developing some sort of framework to bring some method to the proverbial madness, to bring together the research that’s being done to facilitate these collaborative relationships between governments and university-based academics and police services themselves, I think we don’t have to look too far. We’re the only jurisdiction, really, of the G-8, for example, that doesn’t have an organization that does this. You can look at Scotland, they have a Scottish Institute for Policing Research; the U.K. has a College of Policing; the Australians and New Zealanders have the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency; the United States has a number of platforms and portals, which I’m sure you’ve heard from other presenters. We can learn from what they have done, particularly in this age of technology. You don’t need huge infrastructure to create this.
I think it’s possible. In the discussions I’ve had with the persons who are involved in these other initiatives, they’re more than willing to share their best practices, as well as share what hasn’t worked for them. I don’t think that would be difficult at all once we decide to go in that direction.
I’m going to pass the rest of my time to Mr. Rafferty.
Mr. Rafferty, you have five minutes.
Thank you very much, Chair.
And thank you, Dr. Griffiths, for being here with us today.
When we talk about the economics of policing, part of the exercise, of course, is the question: how do we do more with less? I’m interested in your remarks on northern and rural policing, in particular first nations police services. I don’t know how familiar you are with those particular services, but they are, in general, woefully underfunded.
Depending on how familiar you are with first nations police services, I want to ask you: is the current model of those services working? Or is there a new direction that you might suggest for first nations policing, a new model, if you will, of first nations policing, keeping in mind that first nations policing is there as a step towards self-government? I don’t think anyone would suggest that getting rid of first nations police services is the way to go because it would be a step backward in terms of that goal, but I wonder if you’d like to make some comments on that.
I think if we look back over the last, say, three decades of the experience with autonomous first nations police services, which I assume is what you’re referring to—
Mr. John Rafferty: Yes.
Dr. Curt Taylor Griffiths: —it’s been mixed results. A lot of it is a reflection of larger issues that may be going on on that first nations reserve, in terms of leadership issues, capacity. Over the last couple of decades in particular, I know the RCMP and the two provincial police forces have really worked to help build that capacity and to assist autonomous first nations police services.
I think it’s a matter of continuing to provide them with support, not only fiscal support but support in terms of leadership development, succession of leadership, and ensuring that they aren’t isolated. Sometimes they tend to become isolated, not only because of their geographic isolation but also because they don’t tend to be part of the discussion, as you mentioned. There’s a number of different ways that initiative of autonomous first nations police forces—which, as you mentioned, is tied into the larger issue of self-government—can be enhanced. We have examples where it has been.
Providing support is an interesting thing to say because of what’s happened over particularly the last two or three years. I’m going to use northern Ontario as an example, with a few quite large first nations police services—one that deals with a number of first nations communities along the road system and the other one that is predominantly fly-in. Of course, you can imagine the financial issues that you have to deal with and that sort of thing. In the past, the Ontario Provincial Police in northern Ontario have been very supportive of first nations police services—and continue to be—but as their budgets get cut back, their ability to get into communities to help a single police officer, for example, or to get into a community where there is no police officer to help the first nations police service is becoming more problematic. I wonder if you could comment on that.
Because the policing environment and the dynamics of policing in remote and northern communities is so different, any budget cutback has an exponential impact. When we’re in the southern regions, some of it is muted and diffused a bit because there are other resources in place. But the impact and the hit—what it means in terms of policing in some of these rural and, as you said, fly-in communities—is exponentially greater. There are some models they may want to look at. Alaska, for example, has a village public safety officer program that’s been very effective.
It requires us to take a look at some alternative models for having an in-community police capacity beyond just fly-in. There’s a potential for that type of approach.
But I agree with you that when you get a budget cutback, the impact is going to be exponentially greater, particularly in communities that have high, I would just say, “trouble” in terms of the dynamics of what’s going on in that community and the high needs of that community in terms of attention and people having access to assistance.
Thank you very much, Mr. Griffiths.
We’ll now move to Mr. Gill, please, for seven minutes.
Thank you , Mr. Chair. I also want to thank Professor Griffiths for joining us this morning.
I understand, Professor, that you have vast experience with countries around the world and their policing systems. Which country would you compare Canada to, and I’m wondering if you could describe why?
That’s an interesting question, because they’re all so unique. But the one that comes closest to us, in many respects, is Australia. For example, we were just speaking about the Canadian north. Australia, obviously, has a large land area and small population.
The challenges of policing the northern territories are very similar to the challenges we have in policing the Canadian north. The temperatures are a little bit different, but the demographics, the social issues, and the geographic issues, as I said, are very similar, so I would say Australia.
I’m also wondering if you are able to discuss the findings of your Vancouver Police Department’s staffing deployment study, in which you were able to conclude that the force could hire 122 officers, as opposed to the 400 recommended, while still ensuring public safety and efficiency.
The Vancouver operation reviewed the template for the kind of research that needs to be done in any police service when we start talking about the economics of policing. That review was triggered by an ask of over 400 officers by the Vancouver police to the municipal council, at which point the municipal council said, “Well, wait a minute, let’s take a look and see what’s going on with the Vancouver Police Department”.
Police services need to be able to answer a couple of questions before they ask for any additional resources. First of all, how are they using the resources they have? Are they making the most efficient and effective use of the resources they have? Second of all, do they have the capacity to monitor that on an ongoing basis? So you get away from this endless series of asks to municipal council of “We need 100 more, we need 200 more.” And then the municipal council will say, “What did you do with the last 100 we gave you?”…“Well, they’re out there, they’re busy, they’re policing.”
We went to the Vancouver police and we took a look at a number of different aspects of that police service. We looked at overtime usage, we looked at civilianization, we looked at patrol deployment. Another area we looked at, which is rarely looked at, which actually eats up most of the overtime in most police services, was specialty units.
With respect to deployment, one of the things we saw very early on was that Vancouver police had a 13-minute response time to a priority-one call. That would be something like a domestic assault in progress. The best practice is about seven minutes. Either one or two things is happening here. Either Vancouver doesn’t have enough officers to get to that scene in faster than 13 minutes or they’re not deploying their officers effectively and efficiently.
The request for 122 officers came from our analysis of how they were deploying their officers. We concluded that they were doing the best they could with what they had in this instance. They just didn’t have enough. We went back to municipal council and said, okay, municipal council, what do you want to buy? You represent the citizens of Vancouver, what do you want to buy for a priority-one response? You have 13 minutes. Do you want to buy 11 minutes, 10, 9, 8 minutes? Then we provided the decision-makers with actual information that they could use to make a decision. So they decided to buy 10 minutes for now, at that particular point in time. Okay, you want to buy a 10-minute response time to a priority-one call, you’ll need 122 more officers. They’ll come back next year and they’ll track this and show you the outcomes of having those additional 122 officers.
There are a couple of things that go on here. First of all, the police service develops the capacity to know what it’s doing with what it has. Second of all, as importantly, municipal councillors, who often, through no fault of their own, don’t know a lot about policing other than what they read in the media or see on television, get educated in terms of effectiveness and efficiency issues, and actually have some information they can use. But that’s unusual. Usually budgetary decisions, as I mentioned in my opening comments, and policy decisions are made in a complete information vacuum. So that’s how the deployment study developed in Vancouver, and that’s what its objectives were. That can be replicated anywhere.
How much time do we have, Mr. Chair? Two minutes.
A couple of weeks ago I think we heard from our departmental officials regarding the police summit last month. One of the things that came out of the summit was the achievement of the catalogue of initiatives, best practices, being developed and I guess this will be shared across the country. I must say I was somewhat surprised that this was not already in place.
My question to you is this. Are you aware of any other country that has this so-called catalogue? How may this benefit police forces?
I think we have some good touch points in other jurisdictions. I mentioned the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency. I mentioned a couple of platforms in the United States where they have these materials. One of them is Crime Solutions, and there are a couple of other ones where you can go online and they will provide a summary of a particular strategy and then have a number of different indicators about its effectiveness. You either get a green check or a red check against it.
Again, that’s really good generic information to have. I think we can benefit from that. What I would like to see us do is build on that information that currently exists and create our own in Canada, because we have some unique aspects of policing in this country that don’t exist, for example, in Scotland. I think we can use what others have done as a foundation. It’s easily accessible on the web.
Right now, the problem is we don’t have any place in Canada to bring all this stuff together, even in a central server, that would be accessible. As a result, we’re relying a lot on U.S. research, U.K. research, Australian research, to make policy decisions in Canada. I don’t think that’s a very helpful situation. But, yes, there is.
Thank you very much, Mr. Gill and Mr. Griffiths.
We’ll move to Mr. Cotler, please, for seven minutes.
Dr. Griffiths, you mentioned the concern with respect to downloading, and you also said—not necessarily related to it, but I’m trying to make a connection if there is one—that we have not yet defined what core policing is all about.
I’m wondering whether the problem of downloading is making it more difficult to define what core policing is all about, because core policing becomes more diffuse precisely because of the downloading.
I’m wondering if you might respond to that.
Absolutely. The whole issue of downloading really struck me in a northern jurisdiction where I was working. If people in a community called the social services line after five o’clock, on weekends, or on holidays, they would get a recorded message that said, “Hi, you’ve reached social services. We’re not available. If you have an emergency, call the RCMP”. That really started getting me thinking about the downloading situation.
Municipalities often raise the very legitimate issue that a large portion of their budgets is being eaten up by police services, but the reality is that municipalities are generally only responsible for policing and fire and rescue. All the rest is provincial. As I mentioned, when provincial governments start cutting back, the cities eat it. Really. I think there needs to be a discussion between municipalities and their respective provincial governments about what the police should be doing and what capacities the police should have to develop to deal with it.
I should also point out that many police services have experienced challenges in trying to develop these collaborative relationships with provincial counterparts. There are often difficulties, and the police have been at the forefront in many jurisdictions of trying to develop these collaborative partnerships so they don’t end up having to deal by themselves with, for example, the issue of mentally ill people on the street.
I think there needs to be a dialogue between the municipalities and their respective provincial governments. I don’t think that dialogue has occurred, and I think the police end up having a lot of things put onto them just by default, at the end of the day.
And I do agree we need to have a discussion about what core policing is. Right now core policing is very broad, and it’s not just about crime rates. It’s about providing social services; it’s about a lot of other things other than crime rates. That’s the reason for my comments about getting stuck in this notion about whether crime rates are up or down and so whether we need fewer police.
I wonder if I might ask you something about an area in which you have a particular expertise: the whole notion of restorative justice.
This used to be a concept about which there was a good deal of discussion and even modelling, 10 to 15 years ago. There’s very little about it now. It may be this is also a casualty of what you described as the dismantling of our whole research capacity, which included the dismantling of the Law Commission of Canada that had recommended a good deal about the matter of restorative justice. I’m wondering what you might think if we went back, if we revisited it, if we invoked it, whether this might help to make policing more efficient and more effective.
And because I may not have time for a third question, I’m going to try to relate this to it, although it may not be all that related.
Yesterday a report was issued that was titled, “Those Who Take Us Away, Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Columbia, Canada”. It had to do with the whole question of the disappeared and murdered aboriginal women on what has come to be known as the Highway of Tears in northern British Columbia. What was disturbing about it was the two main themes that came out of it. One was that the RCMP appeared not to be protecting the indigenous women, but moreover, they also at times were themselves involved in violence against indigenous women.
Now I’m trying to link it maybe. Would a restorative justice approach be relevant here? I’m just linking it so I can put the two questions to you. They need not be related.
On the restorative issue, I think that again there are initiatives going on in restorative justice on a community-by-community basis across the country from the southern regions to the territories.
Unless you know the actual people who are involved in those initiatives, you’ll never see the report. You’ll never have access to who they are. Someone who’s interested in northwestern Ontario and who is doing the same thing would not even know who’s in Yukon doing it. Again, that’s what I would make the pitch for, a clearing house of information, ideas, and people. So if somebody wants to develop a restorative initiative, here are the people who are involved in it.
There’s work out of the U.K. and they actually say, “Here’s a project. Here’s what the results were. Here’s where you can get the report. Here’s who did the study. If you’re interested, call them or send them an e-mail”. Really it’s a matter of facilitating these connections.
Restorative justice plays out in all sorts of different ways across the country and it’s evolved over the last number of years. Police have been very involved in many jurisdictions in restorative justice, in running family conferences. School liaison officers pull in kids and run conferences and mediations. Again, it’s under the radar. I think there is potential to do more, but with restorative justice, a lot depends on the community context.
What we saw across the north with circle sentencing for example, is that some communities have the capacity and/or interest to become involved in these, and others don’t for a variety of reasons.
You have to make sure that the capacity is there in the community to do it. I hadn’t really given much thought to connecting it to the report that came out yesterday. I’ve read through the materials, and using restorative justice as a way to address the issues that were raised in the report, I think, remains an obvious possibility.
Thank you very much, Professor Griffiths.
Just on that, I think in your response to Mr. Cotler’s question, you were talking about the clearing house for information and you said there is a report in the United Kingdom about how the project is evaluated, how it worked, and how it didn’t work. Do you know how we could access that report?
I don’t have the link with me today, but if you give me a contact, I can send that information to you this afternoon.
We’ll now move back to Madam Lefebvre for five minutes.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Griffiths, thank you very much for your presentation today. You have brought some extremely interesting elements to the committee’s study.
There are so many things. It is difficult to go over everything in five minutes.
You said something that struck me in your opening remarks. You spoke about the fact that we should be asking ourselves what the police should do and should not do, and what kinds of things police should not do.
Do you have any interesting solutions to suggest to the committee?
I think a number of initiatives would be helpful. First of all, as I mentioned, there needs to be a dialogue between the municipalities and their provincial and territorial governments about the downloading issue.
Second of all, there needs to be a mechanism to bring in the community to these discussions. My experience in doing community group work and running focus groups in communities is that most people have no idea what the police do. They rarely see the police except on a traffic stop and they talk about whether or not they got a traffic citation, and everything else comes out of the media.
When you run a focus group with people in the community and you present to them the fact that they have to make choices about what their police service is going to do and that there are limited resources, when you bring them into that dialogue, you see that they have some really good ideas about how to do that.
My comments at the beginning of the session today were that the communities generally had been excluded from these discussions. Particularly the visible and cultural minority communities are generally absent from these general community, open-mike meetings, which I find not particularly useful or productive.
I think there are a number of things we can do to help define what it is. It’s going to vary community by community; there’s no one generic model for what the police should do or not do.
The other thing is that in some communities, the councils are willing to pay more, for example, for a “no call too small” approach, where police officers are maybe not literally getting cats out of trees, but are responding to all calls. It’s going to be community-specific but I think the community needs to be provided the opportunity. As I just mentioned, I’m not a big fan of open-mike community meetings, because you miss a lot of the key elements of the community who won’t show up there.
You mention communities. I have a lot of questions about organized crime, street gangs and the mafia, which are present throughout the country. At a certain point, there was also the problem of the Hells Angels, who were practically operating at a national scale. I have questions about youth involvement in the vicious cycle that is organized crime.
Do we have the right tools to help our young people not get caught up in this vicious cycle? Do you think there are initiatives, a better way of doing things?
Your point is well taken.
The objective is early intervention and prevention. Identifying at-risk youth is not difficult. Most police officers and social workers…. They usually come to the attention of various agencies and personnel. It’s a matter of coordinating that response. Historically, there’s been a lack of resources put at the front end of the system. We do spend a lot of money at the back end of the system if you look at what corrections cost in terms of running a correctional system; multi-millions of dollars. We don’t put the money up front. We have examples of programs that divert kids who are vulnerable to being recruited by gangs. There are examples of programs that are designed to get kids out of gangs. But they are very sparsely funded and they’re not very well known.
Again, because we don’t have this central clearing house we don’t know where to go to find out where to start. We end up talking to somebody in Los Angeles. That’s interesting and there may be some commonalities. But I think there’s enough that we should be focusing on solutions here. We can certainly be informed by other practices. There are specific program examples that should be part of a readily accessible online access tool.
Could you give us a few examples…
Oh, I see that my time is up.
Thank you very much.
Sorry about that. I almost gave you seven minutes instead of five; that would be a terrible thing.
We’ll now move back to Mr. Norlock, please.
Through you, Mr. Chair, to the witness, thank you for appearing today.
I was very much interested when you used the phrase in your opening statement, “doing more with less”. That’s not something new to me. In the mid-1990s when the federal government reduced by $25 billion some transfer payments to the provinces it resulted in a deployed police force that I worked for doing exactly that. That was the common phrase by our commissioner, “we have to do more with less”, and we did more with less.
One of the items that you may have alluded to but didn’t come to specifically is you were talking about all the things that we expect police forces to do. Some of the costs, or the increase in costs, were as a result of specialization. You must be aware, and can you comment on this, that in Ontario the reason we have specially trained officers for investigating sexual assaults…. In domestic abuse scenarios there would be a first officer responding but the follow-up would be by specially trained officers. All of these items come as a result of people like us and more so coroners’ inquests, where the result is “the police should do this, the police should do that, and the police need more training for mentally ill people”. All of these things add incrementally to the cost of policing. Then we have economic downturns where everybody’s budgets are being squeezed. Then somebody comes up with a bright new idea that maybe the police shouldn’t do that and maybe they should be better trained people. So what’s old is new again and all those sorts of things and we’re back down to the 1990s. Could you comment on that?
Second, there’s nothing new in policing about reducing costs. I can recall in my locality where we took three detachments and put them under one administrative roof. I can recall in a budget in a small county reducing policing costs by $5 million by putting fewer supervisors under a bigger administration and therefore being able to keep more front-line officers.
What’s all new about this? We’ve been doing it for a long time.
I think what’s new about it is just the fiscal pressures, which I think are much greater. I think the days of the blank cheque, obviously, are over for police services. Some police services understand that. Some police services in Canada have developed the capacity to go before police boards and municipal councils and say, “Here’s what we’re doing, here’s how we’re cutting costs, here’s how we’re monitoring our overtime, here’s how we’re making sure we are deploying our officers effectively”, and other police services don’t have that capacity. As a consequence, those services that don’t have the capacity to generate that kind of information and to educate their fiscal decision-makers find themselves in a difficult situation.
You’re right, efficiency and effectiveness have been there always, but the public sector in criminal justice, for example, has historically had more challenges in terms of developing the capacity to monitor what they’re doing and how they’re doing it with what they have, as opposed to the private sector.
The other comment I would make is this. We can’t outsource our way out of this issue. I think that while private security has a role to play, while community constable programs have a role to play, I don’t think we can outsource our way out of this. I know there’s a lot of pressure to start outsourcing more and more as is being done in the U.K. Well, the U.K. experiment is still a work in progress. We’re not sure where that’s all going to go. They’re turning over a lot of these activities to the private sector.
We had a chief constable from Staffordshire in here talking about just those things. He gave us some very good meat to chew on, shall I say.
I will go back to funding. Our government put $37.5 million into youth gang funds, $7.5 million into ongoing funding, and then we made a substantial input into the National Crime Prevention Centre. Doesn’t the National Crime Prevention Centre do a lot of the things that you say we should be doing? What more could they do? Could we perhaps incent them to do just exactly what you said, a sort of a central agency to look at different ways of approaching policing and crime prevention?
I think their mandate and the work they do are good. Their mandate is primarily crime prevention, part of the policing continuum. My suggestion would be that any project that’s funded, whether it’s through crime prevention or moneys that are given for gang intervention, absolutely should have an evaluative component. We’re not going to build a database and information base about these programs—whether they work, how they work, under what circumstances they work, that kind of cumulative knowledge—unless we build an evaluative component. I’m not saying that pointy-headed academics have to do all the work. I think many police services now across the country have the capacity to do their own in-house evaluations of what they’re doing.
The evaluative components often have been missing. A lot of the literature we have in Canada is very descriptive, “Well, we talked to 10 people and they thought it was a really good idea, and it seemed to have a big impact on everybody’s lives”. That’s interesting, but did it do what it originally said it was going to do?
I would make the pitch here for an evaluative component, and we can start building that information and knowledge base within our Canadian content—
No, Mr. Norlock, I’m not going to let you go on to another one.
Thank you, Mr. Griffiths.
The last question of the day is going to Mr. Rousseau, please, for five minutes.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much, Mr. Griffiths, for being here.
My first question is about the sharing of responsibilities.
In my riding, in the southern portion of Quebec, there is the Canada Border Services Agency at the ports of entry, the Sûreté du Québec, municipal police forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Because of limited human, material and technology resources, the municipal forces or RCMP sometimes have to support the CBSA.
How do you assess, and what do you think of, the sharing of responsibilities in these kinds of situations, especially since we do not have a truly comprehensive vision for our police forces?
That raises a really important point. I think that there are ways, if you can get these parties, these different policing agencies, together and if you go in and take a look at that situation you described and ask what they are doing right now, how efficient and effective they are with what they’re being given, and then where the efficiencies are…the efficiencies may be in one of the agencies taking certain responsibility and another agency taking another responsibility.
The problem is we don’t have the kind of frameworks to look at these and say, are they being effective and efficient with what they have. Then you may be in a situation by saying yes—as we found in Vancouver—that they are being efficient and effective with what they have, and here’s what they need to do a better job, and here are the metrics we’re going to use to measure their performance.
If you asked me to come into that jurisdiction, those are the kinds of questions I’d be asking. That’s the kind of information I would be gathering, to see where their efficiencies could be gained, how effective they are at what they’re doing, and whether they are using best practices.
My second question is about demographic changes in Canada. Immigration, the aging population and even the rural exodus have influenced how police do their work.
Would you say that they have not really adjusted to these changes? Given the decrease and the end of research into policing, is there not a kind of block there? Would you say that police has not really adjusted to all these demographic changes?
That’s an excellent point. With the changing demographics and the kinds of demands that have been placed on not only police services but other agencies as well—and particularly with downloading a lot—a lot more is falling to police services themselves. I think police services are probably doing a better job than a lot of other public agencies.
If you look at the diversity of the officers themselves, we have increasing diversity in the ranks of police services across the country. The RCMP has been very successful in its recruiting efforts for diversity, for example. I think you have more police recruits who speak a second language than you do probation officers, parole officers, lawyers, or defence counsel.
I think the police are doing, comparatively speaking, a better job than many of their counterparts in the criminal justice system. That being said, that has to be built into the kinds of expectations we have of the police and whether the police have resources to deal with these changing demographics.
My last question may seem a little bit strange, but since I have a professor, a researcher, in front of me, I will ask it anyway.
Do you think incidents such as those of September 11, 2011, changed the priorities of Canadian police, in terms of border, land, air and marine ports of entry? Do you think this put a brake on research for developing a national public safety strategy, or do you think that it is the opposite, that it led to a comprehensive vision?
I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. Obviously following 9/11, community policing really took a hit. A lot more resources were poured into surveillance and more covert kinds of activities than existed prior to that incident. Now the way it’s emerged is there’s a new term or a more frequently used term, “community-based strategic policing”, which says that your patrol officers on the street are really your first line of eyes and ears for people who might pose, for example, a terrorist threat or a threat to security.
It has presented challenges, and I think that’s just an add-on. That was something that came….it was a new event with a new set of consequences on top of what the police were already being asked to do. So now you have the police being asked to have these very highly specialized units to deal with the security threat, and then at the other end of the continuum you have patrol officers at three o’clock in the morning trying to decide what to do with a mentally ill person sitting in their patrol car because there’s no place to take him.
Again, it’s that expansion, just by default, with all these incidents, and there’s really been no discussion about this. It’s just kind of added on, as you suggested.
Thank you very much, Mr. Griffiths. Unfortunately our time has come to a close here today. We certainly appreciate your expertise. We know that you are well regarded, and we thank you for your presentation today and for answering our questions. You’ve really helped our committee and I appreciate that very much.
We are going to adjourn, and we will see you a week after the break on the Tuesday morning.
Thank you, Professor Griffiths.
Thank you very much for having me. I enjoyed the discussion.
All right. The meeting is adjourned.