Few jobs are more thankless, more important or invite more danger on any given workday, than that of a police officer.
And here in Yellowknife, we expect a lot from our cops. Courage has long been part of the job description, of course, but we also want our officers to be martial artists, snoops, friends, kind nurturers, psychologists and disciplinarians.
But we’d like to add one more item to the list: pedestrians.
We love to see you folks on the street. Walking is an important step on the journey to good health, it reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, increases muscle strength and there’s just something about seeing you gamboling about that makes us folks feel secure.
We’d love to see more of it. We think citizens would receive more bang for their buck if officers were redeployed from performing desk jobs or vehicle patrols to doing foot patrols – specifically in the vicinity of the joint Day Shelter/Sobering Centre.
This week we reported that the RCMP conducted 51 downtown patrols in August, 14 of which were in the vicinity of the downtown shelter.
A number of city councillors were not impressed with the numbers, and neither were we.
“I’ve had many people from the downtown area specifically wanting to know how come there’s not even two patrols a day. What is it going to take is the question I’m being asked, what is it going to take to get more action?” Coun. Stacie Smith said to Yellowknife RCMP detachment commander Insp. Alex Laporte at a Tuesday council meeting.
Our newspaper office is downtown and by our admittedly unscientific assessment, the police only have strong presence in the neighbourhood when responding to a complaint. And then they come in pick-up trucks.
We see yellow-vested shelter staff doing foot patrols all the time so where are the RCMP foot patrols?
They don’t appear to be the most intimidating bunch but a few of our reporters have seen them break up an argument or two.
The police should follow the example of these intrepid patrollers. They should even consider partnering up with them to conduct regular walkabouts together.
We understand that the Yellowknife detachment performs its duties based on budgets and resources and that the police are working with what they have.
But we also understand that the detachment commander could, with a stroke of his own pen, beef up foot patrols substantially by redeploying officers from other duties.
Because we need the police in the neighbourhood right now.
Those four or five square blocks that represent ground zero for much of this city’s ills are crying out for attention.
Earlier this month, a man was beaten to death outside the facility. There was another violent incident halfway up the block this week when an apparent stabbing occurred outside the Raven Pub.
One American study prepared by the National Police Foundation found that foot patrols facilitated relationship-building between officers and members of the community.
They improved the enforcement capabilities of officers and changed how the officers were viewed by the community, it stated.
We call you folks flatfoots for a reason.