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Marijuana legalization, Wascana Park protest camp brought unique challenges for RPS in 2018
Published Thursday, December 27, 2018 5:50PM CST
It has been a busy year for police forces across the country, and Regina is no different.
Police Chief Evan Bray joined Gina Martin to talk about the challenges and triumphs for the police force this year.
CTV: The most notable is legalization of recreational marijuana. Can you just walk me through what this year was like getting ready for October 17?
Bray: I think the important part about that was the getting ready was the busier part so far. Because since legalization, we haven’t seen a lot of change, we haven’t had to do a lot of enforcement. It’s been more education. Leading up to it, I mean, number one we had to get our officers ready. So, there was a real training and education component, making sure that we had them educated on the legalization, the law changes, both nationally and provincially, which is important.
But, we also had to deal with illegal dispensaries that were in town. That was a fairly significant piece of work we did. It blended everything from communication and education to the public to those that were owning and operating those dispensaries illegally. Then there was some enforcement that took place on six dispensaries, some follow-up enforcement. Ultimately, it got to the point that I think it helped educate people on what some of the dangers are and why going through legal means to buy legal, recreational marijuana, or if you have it for medical purposes, how you buy it, that’s an important part of keeping our community safe.
CTV: Do you believe police services were adequately prepared with the federal and provincial legislations? Was it enough time to really get on board?
Bray: I don’t know that there really is a magic number that would have been the right amount of time. I think there was a couple of key components and pieces of legislation that came out close to the time that legalization occurred. So, we scrambled a little bit there. But, generally speaking, we’ve known for quite some time that this was coming. We’ve done a lot of training in that regard. I think we were as ready as we’re going to be and it’s going to be something that we’re going to learn as a community and grow together.
CTV: I want to move on and talk about the purchase of a new police station right across the street from the current one. What will that do to improve policing with this new building?
Bray: It’s an exciting thing for us to be able to expand and be able to take over what’s going to be called Headquarters West. Right now, we are not meeting our space needs. So, we’ve got leases that are in seven different locations in the city. Our city is, although it’s a bigger city, it’s still of the size that we can have one main police station and everybody work out of that. Being able to bring everybody together, even civilian police personnel like human resources and financial services, having them in this location, all of our investigator, our frontline officers, it’s going to be instrumental in just information sharing, communication and there’s going to be some efficiencies as well. A lot of that construction work will take place through 2019. We’ve done the visualization, the needs assessment and those types of things so far. So, 2019 will be really, I think, focused on construction and then into 2020 is when the move-in will happen.
CTV: I want to end with just talking about, maybe this is a constant goal for police services, maintaining trust with the public. Has this year been any different, has there been mistrust at all, or is it just a constant goal that police stations strive for?
Bray: It is a constant goal. It has to be a constant goal. If we don’t have the trust of our community, I mean that’s the basis of which we do our job. Trust is absolutely instrumental, transparency, showing the work that we’re doing, being able to admit if there’s a mistake made. We’ve had some significant issues this year that, I think, have given us an opportunity to build trust.
We had a very significant protest in Wascana Park which took a lot of time, a lot of resources, a lot of conversation, built relationships. We fractured and rebuilt relationships during that piece of time that happened. But, ultimately, it was safe, no one was injured, and at the end of the day I think our community shared and communicated and was frustrated. But, all of those things go towards building a relationship. That’s what it’s about: communication and relationships, understanding when we have opportunities to gain perspective and build that trust in the community. That’s the work that we do. We will be as committed to continue that in 2019, as we did through 2018.