'Unfortunate distraction': RPS Chief discusses challenges, misconceptions around Co-op Refinery labour dispute
REGINA -- After blocking Ninth Avenue North near the Co-op Refinery for a week, the Regina Police Service has dismantled the blockade and reopened the road to traffic.
RPS Chief Evan Bray spoke to reporters on Friday morning, and gave some context for the decisions made by the service.
“People are emotional and frustrated with our response and our lack of response,” he said. “The reality is we have an obligation to the citizens of Regina… we’re responsible to our community, we’re responsible to the rule of law and to our consciences.
“We made calculated, tactical, operational decisions that we felt were in the best interest of our community.”
Bray said the challenges presented by the ongoing labour dispute, now in its 11th week, are unparalleled by any other in his career.
The Chief said that the police service is dealing with an “astronomical” number of overdoses as well as a number of complex homicide cases. He said there has never been a one month period that has shown this level of volatility in Regina.
Bray said on top of this work, the labour dispute at the refinery has been an “unfortunate distraction”.
He also said that it has been difficult to craft a response to Unifor’s illegal blockade that would not escalate the situation. With public safety in mind, police took control of a piece of roadway and began limiting people and vehicles in the area until it was safe to remove to blockade.
“We took control over a segment of road that would allow not only free access to the upgrader, but also allow Unifor to exercise their rights,” Bray said.
When asked about allegations made by Unifor that RPS is working on behalf of the refinery, Chief Bray said the claim was “absolutely ridiculous”.
“We are not paid by Co-op. We have not been paid by anyone other than the taxpayers of this city,” he said.
Bray said officers have been in constant communication with Co-op, Unifor, management staff and security on both sides, and all the extra work had to fit in to the services current budget and resources.
He said the service will continue to make thoughtful decisions that everyone may not agree on.
“I think sometimes not agreeing with it means that they don’t understand why,” he said. “Often times I try and give some context as to why we’re doing things, but sometimes it’s not applicable.
“Sometimes I can’t tell you tactically why we’re not going in there tonight because it might compromise something we’re doing tomorrow.”
As for how the situation will progress, Bray said he feels tensions are down, and communication between police, Unifor and Co-op has been extremely positive.
He said a number of times that he’s very proud of the staff of the RPS for dealing with this difficult time.