To protect RCMP officers and the public, and to ensure essential policing continues during the COVID-19 crisis, some police detachments are turning to Call Back Units (CBU) to handle demand.
The units were originally used by the RCMP to address non-emergency calls over the phone or by email so front-line officers could take care of more urgent matters in person.
In the midst of a pandemic, the units — along with some added physical-distancing and health-care measures — are a way for police to help curb the spread of the respiratory virus.
When we recognized the spread, we knew we had to do something to protect members," says RCMP S/Sgt. Brad Lazicki of Lloydminster, Alta. "
The CBU will help keep our officers and the community safe."
Police calls for service are directed to a CBU member once a detachment's operations employees have determined it's appropriate. In Lloydminster, one corporal oversees the work of five constables in the unit.
Non-emergency calls are typically for matters that don't jeopardize public safety. Some of the issues the unit might handle include stolen wallets, minor fraud or theft from a motor vehicle, traffic offences where both parties agree who's at fault, and administrative tasks.
A member of the unit will return a complainant's call usually within 24 hours. If in-person work is required, they'll forward the file to the appropriate team.
It's a change in the way we're doing things," says S/Sgt. Sarah Knelsen, who notes restricted access to the detachment office has raised questions about service in Lloydminster. "
But the goal remains the same, to keep the community safe."
RCMP detachments in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have been using Call Back Units for several years.
But the arrival of COVID-19 prompted RCMP officials in Nova Scotia to increase the unit's numbers to 11 and extend its operations to six days per week rather than five.
The CBU in Nova Scotia now receives calls about people or businesses violating the provincial directives such as failing to self-isolate, gathering in groups of five or more, or not maintaining an appropriate physical distance.
The RCMP Wood Buffalo detachment in Fort McMurray, Alta., also implemented a CBU, which operates with five officers.
Cpl. Teri-Ann Bakker believes the CBU's approach to policing in northeastern Alberta will enhance the RCMP's community efforts.
We are working on building relationships and creating many new relationships over a telephone call," says Bakker. "
We're able to gather information for investigations and other police matters, while respecting social distancing."
Wood Buffalo detachment has implemented telework for non-essential services, staggered office time and morning briefings in police vehicles to reduce face-to-face contact. A so-called shadow watch has also been created in the event any Wood Buffalo officers need to self-isolate because of COVID-19.
Bakker adds the CBU may actually benefit the public by providing a speedy response from police.
With the CBU dedicated to the lower priority calls, this allows the public to have a response on their report to police sooner than later."