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Published on Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Halton police receive international award

International Association of Chiefs of Police salutes Halton Police as a model for community policing

Halton police receive international award
Photo courtesy of Halton police
Sgt. Dave Tutte, Chief of Police Stephen Tanner, President of the IACP Donald W. De Lucca, Deputy Chief Nishan Duraiappah, Const. Marc Taraso
By David Lea, Oakville Beaver

The Halton Regional Police Service’s proactive approach to local issues has earned it an international award for community policing.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) presented Halton police with the 2017 IACP/Cisco Community Policing Award on Tuesday (Oct. 24) during a conference in Philadelphia, Pa.

The IACP represents police from more than 146 countries.

The award is sponsored by Cisco Systems.

It identifies and rewards best practices in community policing by recognizing police organizations that use co-operative partnerships to make local, national and global communities safer.

The award also recognizes the exemplary use of technology to enhance community-police relations.

Halton police were specifically recognized for implementing a regional community mobilization model designed to address community challenges through collaboration, prevention and proactive partnerships to mitigate risk in the community.

They have also created a Community Safety and Well-Being Plan aimed at creating greater collaborative partnerships across various sectors to improve community well-being.

“We are proud because our community is our priority,” said Deputy Chief Nishan Duraiappah on Halton police receiving the award.

“We know we are in a great environment, but we can’t afford to wait and sit back on our heels. We need to continue to innovate and apply current philosophies to the best of the outcomes and we are seeing results in our community, which is the greatest outcome.”

Oakville Mayor and Halton Police Service Board Chair Rob Burton said responding to community needs is at the forefront of Halton’s community policing approach.

He noted Halton’s Community Safety and Well-Being Plan would enable police to respond to issues as they emerge and before they take deeper root.

Halton police Chief Stephen Tanner also weighed in on the award.

“Our effort to focus on community safety and well-being is driven by the support of our police services board, and the many community partners who keep Halton the safest and healthiest community in Canada,” he said.

Duraiappah said the old model of policing involved officers reacting to a problem and trying to solve it on their own.

The new approach involves police mobilizing and engaging the community to help solve a problem in a more effective and lasting way.

Duraiappah provided the example of the Halton police approach to mental health, noting responding to mental health-related calls is currently their No. 1 policing demand.

“Before we just did front line response. If someone were unwell, unable to care for themselves or going to harm themselves — we would apprehend them under the Mental Health Act. They get handcuffed and taken to the hospital and sometimes that makes their situation worse. That’s not the right response for them,” said Duraiappah.

“Now we have the mobile crisis rapid response team (MCRRT), which is a police officer and a mental health professional driving around in the same car. They respond to the call. The mental health professional may have the ability to triage it better, evaluate the situation better. Maybe that person doesn’t need to go to the hospital, but they need something else.”

Groups like the Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST), which consists of a police officer and mental health professional, then visits the individual during the week to assess the situation when there is no crisis and link the person to mental health supports and resources.

This may then lead to follow up visits by a mental health case worker.

The results of this approach have been significant.

According to Halton police, before the creation of the MCRRT and COAST, officers dealing with a mental health-related call would spend an average 100 minutes tied up at local hospitals before the patient could even be admitted.

That wait time has since been cut in half, which police attribute to assessment at the scene.

Through the efforts of COAST and others, the number of repeat mental health-related calls involving the same individuals has also dropped.

Feedback from the people these programs help has also been positive.

“I would like to extend my deepest gratitude for how you handled my situation,” reads one MCRRT client testimonial.

“Mostly, I remember the respect you showed me at a moment I believed my life would never be normal again. I want to let you know that although I have a ways to go, I was released from the hospital and am well enough to return to work on a part-time basis. Just saying thank you sounds a bit trite, but it comes from my heart.”

Another initiative, dubbed Project Lifesaver, saw police work with a variety of community partners to tackle the problem of individuals who go missing due to cognitive disorders.

The solution this working group came up with saw police collaborate with the nonprofit, private sector organization, Project Lifesaver International, to develop a local program to which residents with a wandering loved one could apply.

Participating community members wear personalized wristbands that emit FM radio signals every second, 24 hours a day.

If a person wearing this wristband goes missing, Halton police can track it and pinpoint the individual’s location.

Other multi-sector collaborative initiatives conducted include the Situation Table, where police and a key group of community partners meet to address local issues with a goal of mitigating the risk involved.

Members of this group include, but are not limited to, health, social services, housing, diversity and faith-based partners.

Another initiative is the Regional Diversity Engagement Forum, which connects police with diverse regional partners and religious centres.

Duraiappah noted that in the wake of events, like the 2016 shooting in Orlando and that at a Québec mosque, some communities felt very unsafe.

Police have worked with faith-based groups to catalogue schematics and floor plans of buildings where people may gather and assemble so police will have something to work with in the event of an incident.

Police have also talked with these partners to help them develop joint emergency response plans for these facilities and discussed how best the individuals can react in the early stages.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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