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What are the New Westminster Police Department's priorities for 2022 to 2024?

New strategic plan endorsed by New West police board
The New Westminster Police Department's new strategic plans maps out its priorities for the coming years.

Strengthening community engagement, modernizing community safety and investing in its people - those are the New Westminster Police Department’s priorities for the next three years.

The police department has mapped out its plans for the coming years in its new 2022 to 2024 strategic plan.

“The NWPD respects its unique position to serve the community and protect each of its residents, regardless of race, ethnicity, age and mental or physical ability,” states the strategy. “The department is focused on tackling systemic discrimination in all its forms, working with the community to better understand how diverse groups of people experience NWPD policies and services and ensuring its workforce composition is reflective of the community it serves.”

Chief Const. Dave Jansen said work on the strategic plan began in 2019, but was put on hold in March 2020 when COVID-19 hit. He noted that issues like the George Floyd murder and other societal issues influenced the direction the board wanted to go with its strategic plan.

When work on the plan resumed, the police board hired Sirius Strategy to help develop the strategy. The strategy is based on information gathered from public engagement, internal information from the NWPD, data from external sources like Statistics Canada, and insights from stakeholders and management staff.

Mayor Jonathan Cote, chair of the police board, said work on the strategic plan had to adjust to the impacts of a global pandemic and the impacts of a changing conversation about policing.

“I think it was really important for us to take that important pause, and reflect and make the adjustments that we did to refocus,” he said. “I am really pleased with where we have landed with this work. I think we have captured the values we want to instill in the New Westminster Police Department and really start to develop the key themes.”

The New Westminster police board endorsed the new strategic plan at its Feb. 15 meeting.

The strategy begins with an acknowledgement that New Westminster is on the unceded and unsurrendered land of the Halq’emeylem-speaking peoples and that colonialism has made invisible their histories and connections to the land. It goes on to say that the New Westminster Police Department’s purpose is to serve everyone in the community with integrity, excellence and compassion.

“Those would be the core values the organization would like to demonstrate,” said Kyle Stamm, founder of Sirius Strategy.

While integrity and excellence are absolutely important and were present in a lot of the interactions Stamm had with people in the police organization, he said he was most struck by the NWPD’s focus in elevating the way services are delivered, elevating its relationships with all stakeholders in the community and doing that with a core value of compassion.

“So, when we talk about what the impact of that could be, we could imagine a world, a future, where people of all stripes, no matter their history, background or prior dealings with police, would trust that that institution, the people serving there, are able to help them at the times they needed it most, when they reach out for help,” he said. “That is not something you can ask for; it’s something you have to earn. This organization sees compassion as a way to get there.”

Mapping out goals

The strategic plan lists three goals that will define the police department’s direction in the next five to 10 years: listening to the community; serving the community by ensuring community safety with integrity, compassion and excellence; and supporting the people in the NWPD to provide a diverse, inclusive, healthy and engaging workplace that promotes employee equity, growth, wellness and fulfillment.

“One of the things that is really important about the journey this organization has been on is the commitment to see tangible change, in particular around the themes that were presented in this strategy,” Stamm said. “And so the mayor and the board and leadership team and the chief have put forward an accountability statement that commits them to fulfilling the things that are presented in the strategy, but also to be transparent about the progress – successes and failures – as we go through pursuing those things.”

To achieve the goals mapped out in the strategic plan, the document outlines actions it will strive to meet for each of its three priorities in the next three years. These include:

*Strengthen community engagement: By Dec. 31, 2022, the NWPD will create an Indigenous Peoples engagement plan, establish a NWPD diversity and engagement team, and begin community engagement. By Dec. 31, 2023, it will engage with local First Nations, engage with community groups and identify and implement recommended actions.

*Modernize community safety: By Dec. 31, 2022, the police department will complete the operation review of the NWPD that’s currently underway, support committee work to clarify the police’s role for homelessness, mental health and addiction, and establish key performance indicators. Milestones to be set for 2023 will be based on the work arising from the operations review, committee work and public engagement.

* Invest in our people: By Dec. 31, 2022, the NWPD will implement an employee engagement survey, pilot performance and growth reviews, and implement the recommendations arising from the city’s work on diversity equity inclusion and anti-racism.

“The purpose of the milestones is to clarify, and kind of put a stake in the sand and say, ‘This is how far we want to go this year with this priority,’” Stamm said. “It’s a really good tool to give clarity to your leadership team.”

Police board member Heather Boersma said she’s grateful for all the work that’s been done on the strategic plan, but would like to see that work embedded into police board meetings, so the board can ensure the plan stays on track.

Cote agreed.

“This is an important step passing this document, but a more important (step) is implementing it,” he said. “I looking forward to bringing to life those action items, and I think the board has an important role in how to shape how those action items. ... None of us want this document to just gather dust on a bookshelf.”

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus