The first steps have been taken in the development of a police program that brings community stakeholders working closely with RCMP.
Town councillors heard about the benefits of a Police Advisory Committee (PAC) Tuesday, Sept. 22 during a committee of the whole meeting from RCMP Staff Sgt. Bob Gollan, with special direction in community policing, and Lesley Kelly, the manager of policing oversight and funding programs with the Solicitor General of Alberta.
Gollan said a PAC can help solve issues in a community before they become real problems. He and Kelly proposed the idea of creating a PAC in Ponoka that would cost little to operate and bring many benefits to the community.
“As a PAC, you’re the ears of the community . . . but you’re also listening to what the community has to say,” said Gollan.
“A lot of times, it’s visibility,” said Gollan of the program.
He said the commanding officer of a detachment must follow an annual performance plan that drives police investigations.
Part of the performance plan is to seek feedback from community stakeholders and the PAC would be one way to get that information. It also allows committee members a chance to discuss areas that officers are investigating and brings increased awareness to the community.
Because a PAC is not a legislated body, a resolution through a bylaw can set up its framework, explained Kelly.
Some of the benefits of creating a PAC, explained Kelly, is it can help reduce the perception of political interference. “It can increase the transparency in public trust.”
Creating an effective PAC needs a strong cross-section of the community, which can help determine local trends. The committee can also provide further community outreach with town council providing direction and support.
Kelly recommends five to eight members appointed by council as approved by the commanding officer and there should be some community representation with groups such as the victim services, Family and Community Support Services, volunteer groups and business associations.
She added that ethnic minorities and youth could play a big part in the committee. Kelly said she has draft bylaws that the town could use to create its own. She recommended members read up on board governance to get an understanding of how the meetings can be run.
Kelly provided council with a book and DVD on board governance.
Gollan added that council should look for people who want to affect change in Ponoka. He feels having a youth on the committee is vital to making it work. Rather than a reporting committee, Gollan suggests it is to affect positive change.
No decisions were made as it was a committee of the whole meeting.