Vol. 81, No. 3Panel discussion

A male police officer in plainclothes stands near a vehicle outdoors.

How can policing be more innovative?

RCMP officers in Red Deer, Alta., conduct plainclothes surveillance as part of their work with the Crime Reduction Team. Credit: RCMP

When it comes to being innovative, we often think of new science and technology. But innovation means more than that — it's also about improvement. We asked four RCMP employees about creative and inventive techniques and approaches that make policing better and what it takes to turn a good idea into a great practice.

The panellists

  • Supt. Gerald Grobmeier, officer in charge, Red Deer detachment, Alberta
  • Simon Baldwin, manager of the Operational Research Unit, Contract & Indigenous Policing Directorate, Ottawa, Ont.
  • Supt. Shelly Dupont, Northeast District Commander, Bathurst, N.B.
  • Insp. Mitch Monette, Prime Minister's Protective Detail, Ottawa, Ont.

Supt. Gerald Grobmeier

Every business in today's society faces the same questions. How do we become more innovative and how do we better use the resources we already have?

Policing is no different. Policing budgets are on the minds of every mayor, council, board and citizen that pays taxes. Finding efficiencies and doing our work better is imperative and is demanded of us. Adding more resources isn't always the answer in these fiscally tight times. We need to ensure we're doing the most with the resources that we have before asking for more.

In 2016, the City of Red Deer was No. 2 on the CSI (Crime Severity Index) in Canada for cities with populations over 15,000. Property crimes along with robberies were driving these high CSI numbers. So how could we do better? No new resources were forthcoming but the status quo couldn't continue.

Red Deer detachment's answer to this was PINPOINT — the first part of Red Deer's Crime Reduction Strategy.

PINPOINT uses resources that are already in place but focuses all the units on one goal: reducing property crime.

Criminal intelligence analysts determine crime hot spots, residences with high calls of service, prolific offenders, breach checks and clients who need more help than policing can provide.

Monthly meetings are held with all the unit heads. People and areas of interest are assigned to officers to enforce and report back on.

This approach has allowed us to be more effective and strategic with our resources, focusing on certain crimes, certain people, certain areas and certain times. It's an approach that's being used throughout Alberta with great success.

Any idea or new approach requires people with passion to drive it.

It needs the support of management to allow people to take reasonable risks. If we continue to do the same things, we'll continue to obtain the same results.

Implementing a new strategy also demands patience and perseverance. Research and planning are also critical to be successful.

It took us five months in Red Deer to implement PINPOINT. We wanted to make certain we got it right and then spent countless hours communicating the plan and altering it as we received feedback. This allowed us to hit the ground running with minimal resistance. We were able to show that we weren't asking members to do more with less — we were asking them to do their work differently.

Early wins help build momentum and we've been able to demonstrate that to our officers. Communication remains key. Properly using the expertise available helps to grow any innovation.

I am happy to say that in 2017, our CSI rate dropped to No. 5 and in 2018, property crime in Red Deer was reduced by 28 per cent.

Simon Baldwin

With the RCMP Commissioner's focus on making sound decisions, it's essential for the organization to look for new and innovative ways to use operational data and evidence for developing policy, training and equipment. This is particularly important for officer safety and reducing the risks that front-line officers face in their operational duties.

The Operational Research Unit provides research support to all areas within Contract & Indigenous Policing (C&IP) — such as use of force, Emergency Response Teams and crime prevention. We've been recruiting skilled research students and collaborating with subject matter experts through strategic and sustainable academic partnerships.

These partnerships, including one with Carleton University's Police Research Lab, have facilitated the growth of C&IP's research capacity and led to more rigorous methods and analysis, gender-based analysis plus to name one. They've also resulted in significant external funding to conduct operational research.

Each year, through this collaboration, we obtain new students through field placements, practicums, directed studies and theses/dissertations to work part time on various C&IP research projects and priorities.

The students have worked on meaningful initiatives that have provided the evidence base for many tangible improvements for officers such as faster holsters, increased OC spray concentration and safer personal protective equipment.

This integrated and collaborative research model has also created an excellent recruitment tool where skilled students transition into full-time employment at the RCMP. Many of the students, like me, have found their home within the organization as public servants, dispatchers and police officers. Many continue to collaborate with the RCMP while pursuing their graduate degrees.

This has created a large network of skilled people in the organization and in academia who have a strong and pragmatic understanding of policing issues and challenges. Another important aspect of this approach is developing our current employees by supporting educational opportunities to develop "pracademics" — academics who work within the policing environment.

We've also focused on improving data access and integrity.

One of the ways we've done this is simply by modernizing our existing reporting processes, like forms, to ensure that operationally relevant information is being captured in a way that's accessible and can be analyzed at the national level.

A key example is the Subject Behaviour/Officer Response (SB/OR) report — the RCMP's national use-of-force reporting system. The data from SB/OR is used to inform all relevant use-of-force policies, training and equipment initiatives. For instance, analyzing officer injury rates played a key role in initiating and updating Block Training for police officers.

We've developed Block Training scenarios based on the most common situational factors in police work. This helps ensure that training is as closely aligned as possible with the operational realities facing officers. Analyzing officer-involved shootings also helps to inform the development and evaluation of firearms training.

Lastly, C&IP is focusing on improving employees' and senior management's ability to consume and interpret operational data. This includes the use of dashboards that provide up-to-date trends from our operational system.

We've also started using an electronic, interactive mapping system to visualize the distribution of operational equipment, training and critical incidents across the country. This additional evidence-based information gives provinces and detachments the ability to make sound, risk-based decisions.

Supt. Shelly Dupont

Innovation can mean different things to different people. Some may think that it pertains to modern technology, equipment and tools. Others may think it is improvements in processes, policies, (whether operational or administrative) or in law.

Perhaps it's an innovation to do with virtual work spaces or offices that make dispatching more efficient. It could also be a shift from reactive policing to predictive analytics and crime analysis, so that police and other social service interventions can be deployed and initiated earlier, to reduce and prevent crime.

For me, innovation in policing is all of this and more. It starts with an idea or a possibility that's then put into action and becomes a reality. Innovation is that creative process that takes a challenge or problem and creates a solution that improves or even removes the initial difficulty.

For innovation to be successful, it often requires a leap of faith. It's about taking a hard and critical look at the tool, equipment, process or policy that creates challenges or frustrations, and realizing that it's time to do things differently.

It takes many people to make innovation come to life, and a culture of support and openness to try new things. For change to happen, we all need to own our organization and the uniform we either wear or support.

In New Brunswick, we've defined innovation as a combination of thoughts and actions that lead to positive impacts where it's being conducted. Innovation focuses on what's new, whether it's evolutionary or revolutionary.

To that end, the RCMP in New Brunswick has implemented an inno-vation network, a group of subject matter experts from among our own employees who can review and provide support for ideas on modernization and efficiencies. The innovation network aims to foster a culture where the ideas of our own employees — those who know our work best and are invested in and care about our organization — can be harnessed, developed and implemented to benefit the broader organization.

The Activity Status Reporting System is an excellent example of the innovative work that's been accomplished here. By enhancing our reporting system to capture all operational and administrative activities, we can better ensure member safety and more accurately allocate resources where they are most needed.

Innovation is more than just introducing new ideas or exciting new concepts. It's vital to ensure the different aspects of our organization are supporting each other in the best way possible, providing the best policing to the communities we serve.

Society and the things that police encounter and deal with have changed. Policing has to evolve and modernize in response, and we already have the necessary solution — our people.

Whether it's the constable working in a small detachment or the public service employee who works every day to keep her RCMP family safe — they are innovation in policing. Tapping into and empowering them is how we grow and evolve.

Insp. Mitch Monette

I think that innovation is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. When most people think about innovation, the use of new technologies is often the first thing that comes to mind. And with such a large organization, it can be challenging to bring changes at the macro level as we have such diverse operational realities from one province to the next.

My personal beast over the past few years has been ensuring the prime minister's safety, which I realize is very different than what most RCMP employees tackle. But regardless of the work we do, it's up to each employee to challenge the status quo.

Here at the Prime Minister's Protective Detail (PMPD), we've been making small changes here and there that are having a ripple effect on our team.

For example, we're bringing a more scalable approach to protection — based on the client's program and threat environment — by being more nimble in terms of resource management.

We're also empowering employees to be more active in decision-making. This was challenging at first because everyone was used to the same operational approach. To that sense, we heavily rely on our intelligence unit, who help us better adapt to the actual threat reality.

We also try to be innovative in terms of how we work with our clients. A few months ago, we had the prime minister and later his staff attend our facilities to gain a better understanding of our operations, which in turn enables us to provide exceptional close protective services. Imparting security of the PM as a shared responsibility with the Prime Minister's Office has come a long way from our historical the-RCMP-does-it-all approach.

There are many examples of technologically innovative ideas that we're working on.

Being innovative can be anything you want it to mean but it also sometimes means taking risks as you are entering into the unknown. Embracing innovation in all its forms improves the way we do business.

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