National Police Week is May 14-20

·5 min read

National Police Week is a seven-day public awareness campaign that runs May 14-20 and encourages new connections between police and the communities they serve. Policing in Canada is dependent on the trust, accountability, and support of the community which forms the cornerstones of the profession. The theme for this year’s campaign is “Committed to Serve”, and day-in/day-out RCMP officers and civilian employees like the detachment services assistants, interact with and connect to their communities, serving through the work they do and the various roles they fill in their off-work hours.

National Police Week began in Canada in 1970 as a way for police to connect with their communities and increase awareness about the services they provide. In 1962, American President J.F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which it falls each year, as National Police Week. The American version of National Police Week pays special recognition to those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. In Canada, the last Sunday in September is recognized as Police and Peace Officer’s National Memorial Day.

Community policing is at the heart of Canada’s Police Week, as it's an opportunity for police and community members to get to know each other, but what is community policing? Community policing is a shift from traditional policing practices and focuses on building trust and long-term relationships in the community with the ultimate goal being the reduction of crime. It moves from a reactionary punitive focus to one based on prevention through mutual respect. Additionally, community policing brings the community itself into the circle of crime prevention. From a public safety aspect community policing involves a shifting of priorities from the traditional crime control methods which revolve around the threat of punishment to looking at community needs, building public trust, and having an entirely different attitude to policing. More simply, community policing involves integrating police agencies more closely with the communities they serve. The design gives residents and neighbourhood groups a seat at the table and collaborates with partners such as nonprofits and community health centres.

One of the RCMP's five strategic priorities is to reduce youth involvement in crime, both as victims and/or offenders. Many schools across RCMP jurisdictions, including the Wakaw Detachment area, have an assigned School Resource Officer who acts as a key contact for youth, parents, and teachers in a specific school or group of schools. School Resource Officers support community policing efforts and often assist in delivering RCMP programs and local initiatives to youth. In order to reduce youth crime and victimization, the RCMP focuses on outreach and engagement as well as intervention and diversion. The Centre for Youth Crime Prevention website provides youth, police officers, and adult youth educators with tools and resources to assist them in their interactions with youth in schools and the community. The site encourages effective youth engagement through critical thinking and provides resources on youth crime and victimization issues such as bullying, online safety, sexual consent, and drug-impaired and distracted driving, among other social issues facing youth. The long-term prevention of youth crime and victimization can only be accomplished in partnership with the community. It is important that young people have the opportunity to provide their perspectives on issues that affect them since they are key players in the prevention of crime in communities. This is not in any way implying that all crime in communities can be laid at the feet of the young people, but youth grow into adults, and supporting young people in this way is the same as taking care of one’s health before getting sick and goes back to the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

The community wants and expects the police quite simply to keep them safe, be they a separate police service or the RCMP. They do not differentiate between patches or names and police services across the country are joined in achieving the goal of keeping communities safe by being "committed to serve" in communities across the country. Collectively, and with other first responders, and social and community organizations, local police achieve this 24/7/365. The health and safety of our communities are built upon four pillars: treatment, harm reduction, enforcement, and prevention. The police take pride in their leadership and/or support role for each of these pillars. As frontline first responders, police officers are often the gateway to many community supports.

Sgt. Von Niessen has often said that no one commits a crime in front of a police officer and a truer statement would be hard to find. Community policing is a reciprocal act. It requires the community to work with the police in their efforts to keep the community safe. By working together, the police together with the community can make a difference in ensuring safety and security for all.

Identifying and reporting suspicious incidents help police keep communities safe. It is important for members of the public to report anything they deem suspicious.

The presence of any single behaviour does not necessarily constitute a serious criminal activity. However, when there is a cluster of behaviours it may indicate suspicious activity worthy of in-depth examination by police. Something by itself may seem unimportant, but when police can combine one incident with other incidents, it could be indicative of a greater threat, or it could be the pieces that solve a puzzle. When an incident occurs, remember the five “w”s and include in your description: who or what you saw; when you saw it; where it occurred; and why it’s suspicious. Our police are committed to serving their communities, but our communities also need to be committed to helping them.

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder